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Full text of "Drafted: You're in the Army Now!"

1>BAI 




YOU'RE IN TII£ ABJIY NOW! 

1, 

3 " -•.----» — ^ 




'Training, Soldiering, G.I. Antics and 
Debauchery of Army Garrison Life. ' 



BUD J 








Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2013 



http://archive.org/details/draftedyoureinarOObudm 



miiu 




YOU'RE IN THE ARMY NOW! 



A Biography By: 

BUD MOiXACO 



Sopro Books, Inc. 
Chicago Ridge, IL 




Sopro Books, Inc. 

2012 

Published by Sopro Books, Inc. 

Box 227 

Chicago Ridge, IL 60415 

www.SoproMusic.com 

Copyright © 2012 by Sopro Books, Inc. 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, 

scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form 

without permission. 

Printed in the United States of America 

Second Edition Printing, 2013 

SoproFotos By Bud Monaco, Copyright © 2012 

Library of Congress Cataloging in-Publication Date 2012 

Monaco, Bud 

Drafted: You're In The Army Now! 

ISBN # 978-1-4675-2943-3 

This is a work of non-fiction. Many names have been 

changed for privacy, and all characters, places, and incidents 

are from the memories and writings of the author. Any time 

frames or locations that may be out of chronological order or 

mis-located are nobody's fault but mine. 




This Book is Dedicated to: 

All the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines 

who have served our country in the American Military 

with Honor and Dignity during WW I, WW II, 

The Korean War, The Vietnam War, 

The War in Grenada, The War in Panama, 

The War in Somalia, The Iraq Wars, 

and The Afghanistan War, whether serving in 

Combat, Combat Support, or Garrison. 

To those men and women who gave their lives for 

our country, to those who were wounded, 

and to those who returned home; 

Here's to all of you, and here's to the rest. 

Damn few left. 

Thank You For Our Freedom. 

You Are Not Forgotten. 

Acknowledgements 

In memory of: 

Charles J. 'Patsy' Monaco (US Army WW II) 

Anthony R. Monaco (KIA - US Army WW II) 

Edward H. Monaco (US Army WW II) 

Kenneth E. Perry (KIA - Vietnam) 

Tom 'Fox' Boyle (WIA - Vietnam) 

In respect and admiration for: 

Pat Carolan (WIA - Vietnam) 

Charles 'Butch' Hayes (WIA - Vietnam) 

Joe Anderson (WIA -Vietnam) 

Heartfelt Love and Thanks to: 

My dear lady, my love, and my life partner, Carol Prosapio. 

My dear friend, partner, and brother, Red Rose. 

My dear friend, Joe Jammer, for editing help and inspiration. 

My friend, Bob Madera, for editing, with extreme care and concern. 

My dear friend, Billy McCarthy, for support and direction. 

My dear friend, partner, and brother, Steve Goodey, for computer operations. 

My dear friend, and sister, Sarah Wood for first read and support. 

My dear friend, partner, and brother, Boris Boden, for cover artwork. 

My dear friends, Jack and Ad Sowchin for book design and formatting. 



Drafted: You^re In The Army Now! 
Book Review Quotes by Readers, 

"This is one Soldier's story about being Drafted, 
Army Basic and Advanced Individual Training, 
and Tour of Duty Overseas in Panama, Central 
America. During the Vietnam War years, being in 
a combat zone was serious business, but Army 
garrison life was a totally different animal. This 
personal story is serious, scary, informative, witty, 
funny, and sometimes hilarious, sometimes, all at 
the same time. It is a unique look into Army 
training and Army garrison life overseas in a 
foreign country. Men who were young soldiers 
once, all have unique stories to tell. This story is 
just one of them. These were some of the days of 
their lives, never to be forgotten." C.K. 

"I have known this writer for over twenty-five 
years, working closely with him in the music 
business, but this trip back in time was amazing. I 
thought I knew a lot about his life, but this story of 
times past, totally blew me away. This is one tough 
cat." J.J. 

"Monaco is a great story teller. His detail of Army 
Basic and Advanced Individual Training is sharp 
and very accurate. His writing tales of Army 
garrison life overseas reads like Lacombe, 
Galloway, or Ambrose in one chapter, and yet in 
the next chapter, reads like Tom Wolfe's, 'Electric 
Kool Aid Acid Test,' or a comedy routine by 
Dennis Leary, or Dice Clay. This outstanding 
memoir is one crazy, intense, and wild ride." C.P. 



"If you've never had the pleasure of being drafted 
into the Army, Monaco's detailed expose" will bring 
the experience into sharp perspective. For 
veterans of the Vietnam War era, you can relive 
these times of your lives. Only this time around, 
reading Monaco's book, it will not be the worst 
time of your lives." D.G. 

"Army garrison life overseas is a life of its own. 
Monaco shows the good, the bad, and the ugly sides 
of Army life in Central America. At times, it's 
whacked out Army life, at other times, it's 
extensively enjoyable, and many times, it's 
outrageously funny with clever truthfulness and 
wit. Monaco's book is a sure fire good read." S.W. 

"For not being a career, professional soldier, or a 
National Geographic scientist or observer, 
Monaco's detailed writing about Army life, along 
with the detailed beauty and dangers of the 
Central American triple canopy jungles, is an 
outstanding memoir." R.R. 

"Monaco's book will take you on a memorable 
journey into Army life, tales of Navy, Marines, and 
Air Force military life overseas, the beauty and 
debauchery of Panama City, Panama, the grand 
but dangerous triple canopy jungles of Central 
America, along with a nostalgic look back at 
Chicago's South Side in the late 1960's and early 
1970's." B.T. 



Page i 

''Drafted: You^re In The Army Now!^^ 

By: Bud Monaco 

Introduction 

There have been thousands of books, documentaries, 
and biographies written by soldiers and writers with 
story Hnes of mihtary service, combat operations, and 
histories of war dating back hundreds of years, and to the 
present. Most of the natures of those books are of actual 
combat experiences or historical compositions. There are 
a few exceptions that are written about non-combat 
military life. This is my story of military service, which 
parallels thousands of other soldiers that did not serve in 
combat, spending their time in service for their country 
in Army garrison units during Basic Training, Advanced 
Individual Training, and duty stations in the U.S. and 
overseas around the globe. 

This book tells the story about non-combat 
experiences of military life, which is at times, serious, 
comical, historical, informative, and sometimes downright 
exceptional. I hope the reader finds this material knowl- 
edgeable, amusing, and interesting. I personally assume 
complete responsibility for any inconsistencies, personal 
vanities, and double standards, incorrect chronologies, 
historic information, spelling, punctuation, and my 
continuous, rampant use of American and military slang 
terminology. This is me. This is how I remember it and 
how I wished to express myself with the writing of this 
book. 

Generally speaking, I hated my time of service in 
the Army, and came to hate at times, with primordial rage, 
the NCOs, officers, and even some of the men I served 
with. The military life was not for me, and I could not 
wait for the day of my discharge, so I could return home 
to continue my previous civilian life. 

On the other hand, I learned a lot of things about the 
capacities of my own mind, physicalities, the human 



Page ii 



nature of others, and life survival that has complimented 
my life over the years. I was able to enjoy a lot of my 
time overseas, which gave me the opportunity to live in 
Central America learning the good and bad of a foreign 
country's culture. My service time also paid me back in 
spades. I was able to attend five years of college to secure 
my Associate Arts degree and Bachelor of Arts degree. I 
majored in business administration and marketing, and 
graduated from Chicago's Southwest Junior College and 
Chicago State University. This was all paid for through 
the Army's GI Bill. I never would have been able to 
afford this college education without having the GI Bill 
to pay the freight. I thank Uncle Sam for his 
generosity, but it was genuinely earned. I also have 
used the Veterans Administration medical facilities 
over the past years. 

My time in military service was in no way as 
remotely remarkable as was so many other young men's 
time in service, like those who served in the military in 
combat during the Vietnam War. I salute them, holding 
them in the highest esteem with honor and dignity. 

Enough can never be said to pay tribute to those 
soldiers who fought and bled and died in the jungles of 
Vietnam in Southeast Asia. There can be no 
comparison to any military service to what combat 
soldiers endured and achieved during their time 
in-country under enemy fire, and under the constant threat 
of death, day after day. There are some story lines 
contained in this book about the bravery under fire that 
some of my friends endured to include those who were 
wounded and died serving our country in Vietnam. 
I dedicate this book to them and to my father and his 
brothers who served their country. 



Page iii 

Dedicated with Honor and Dignity to The Brothers of America: 
Here^s to them and here^s to the rest. Damn Few Left! 

Kenneth E. 'Kenny' Perry / U. S. Marine Corps / KIA / Vietnam 

Patrick 'Pat' Carolan / U. S. Army / WIA / Vietnam 

Thomas 'Fox' Boyle / U. S. Army / WIA / Vietnam 

Charles 'Butch' Hayes / U. S. Army / WIA / Vietnam 

Joseph 'Joe' Anderson / U. S. Army / WIA / Vietnam 

Daniel 'Red' Hughes / U.S. Marine Corps /Vietnam 

Thomas 'Cloudy' Patterson / U. S. Army / Vietnam 

Larry 'The Ref Swakon / U. S. Army / Vietnam 

James 'Jim' Peterson / U. S. Army / Vietnam 

Jack 'Shark' Starshak / U. S. Army / Vietnam 

Barron 'Big D' Buchunas / U. S. Army /Vietnam 

Keith 'Driver' Buchunas / U. S. Army / Vietnam 

Michael 'Mickey' Soraghan / U. S. Army /Vietnam 

Raymond 'Ray' Majdecki / U. S. Navy /Vietnam 

Charles 'Skip' Miller / U. S. Army / WIA / Vietnam 

John 'Doc' Hamm / U. S. Marines / Vietnam 

Sigmund 'Ziggy' Laporta / U. S. Army / Korea 

Charles J. 'Patsy' Monaco / U. S. Army / WW II 

Anthony R. 'Tony' Monaco / U. S. Army / KIA / WW II 

Edward H. 'Eddie' Monaco / U. S. Army / WW II 

Charles 'Charley' Prosapio Sr. / U. S. Army / WW II 

Gerry 'Tin Can Sailor' Miller / U. S. Navy / WW II 

Terry 'The Ranger' DeLance / U. S. Navy / Vietnam 

Douglas 'Doug' Barnes / U. S. Army / Korea 

Yanic 'Arbituer' Morin / Royal Canadian Army / Bosnia/Cypress 

Thomas 'Tommy' Blinstrub / U. S. Marines / Vietnam 

Edward 'Eddie' Hederman /U.S. Army / Vietnam 

Edward 'Eddie' Fitzpatrick / U. S. Army / WIA / Vietnam 

Charles 'Chuck' Hemmer / U. S. Army / KIA / Vietnam 

John 'Big U' Ulatowski / U. S. Army / WIA / Vietnam 

Ray 'GTO' Wilson / U. S. Army / Panama 

James 'Jimmy' Orr / U. S. Army / Germany 

Terrance 'Terry' O'Boyle / U.S. Marines / Vietnam 

John 'W05' Wright / U.S. Marines / Iraq/ Afghanistan 

Johnny 'Pet' Petramala / U.S. Army / Germany 

Ronald 'Ron Tosh' Tushkowski / U.S. Army / Vietnam 



Page iv 



There were many guys that I served with in Basic 
Training at Fort Campbell, Advanced Individual 
Training at Fort Polk, and during my overseas duty at 
Fort Kobbe, Canal Zone, Panama, Central America, some 
whose names are not mentioned to protect their privacy. 
Some of them were solid friends and brothers during our 
service time. Some stayed friends and brothers for years 
after our service time. Some were just short time 
acquaintances that were neither friends nor brothers, and 
would sell you a rat's asshole for a wedding ring. I did 
not put names to every part of this book to protect the 
privacy of soldiers that fit into any of these categories or 
times during our service. There are many situations and 
actions about me that I am not concerned with in regards 
to who will now know these things or who it might 
offend one way or the other. Quite frankly, I don't give a 
damn. Take it for what it's worth. 

There are events in this book that some people who 
have known me for years will be absolutely shocked to 
learn about. Some that know me will say, "Way to go, 
man, that's really cool." Others will say, "Oh my god, I 
can't believe he did that. That can't be true." Others will 
say, 'T knew he was a whack job all along all these years 
but just couldn't put a fmger on it. I just knew it." I have 
zero regrets, and if I had to do it all over again I would 
probably do it all the same. This is the way it was, and 
Fm sticking to my story. Anyone's concern or indignities 
they may have for me after reading this book can think 
what they wish. 



Page V 



During my life's career as an Independent Music 
Promoter, Music Artist Developer and Manager, Concert 
Promoter, Music Studio Producer, Song Writer, wearing 
many different hats as a Music Columnist, Author, Road 
Manager, Crew Chief, Roadie, Stage Manager, Publisher, 
Website Designer, and Photographer, I have also written 
and produced nine songs titled, "Sopro Music's Military 
Music Dedications." All nine songs were written 
collectively with many of the brilliant and exceptionally 
talented music artists that I have worked with over the 
years. These songs are dedicated with honor and dignity 
to all of the American Soldiers and Veterans who served 
our country during WW II, Korea, Vietnam, and the 
present day active military personnel fighting the wars, 
both at home here in America, and overseas in the Middle 
East, paying tribute to them with these great American 
anthem songs with the highest regards. 

Included with this book is a CD of these nine songs 
along with the heart-touching song lyrics, musicians, 
writers, producers, and artwork designer credits. 
I sincerely hope you will take the time to play, 
listen, and enjoy these beautiful songs honoring our 
American Soldiers. 

Sopro Music offers this "Military Music Dedication" 
CD to all American Veterans and present day active 
military personnel, free of charge, through the Sopro 
Music website. This is just my way of saying to the past 
and present military men and women of our Armed Forces: 

''Thank You For Our Freedom. 

You Are Not Forgotten.'' 

Here we go. Enjoy. 



Page vi 



^•*^ 



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SGT Kenneth E. Perry 



-^ -^.--^ 



PVT Charles J. Tatsy' Monaco 




SSGT Anthony R. 'Tony' Monaco 







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4th Battalion 
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& Tropic Test Center 






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Navy & Marine Corps 
Rodman Naval Station 






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Jungle Operations 

Training Center 

JOTC 


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193rd Infantry Brigade 

3rd Battalion 
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us Military 

Command Pentagon 

Washington, D.C. 


US Southern Command 

Canal Zone 

Panama 




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US Army Headquarters 






Quarry Heights 

US Southern Command 

Headquarters 


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193rd Infantry Brigade 

Headquarters 


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193rd Infantry Brigade 

4th Battalion 
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DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 



Chapter 1 

Drafted: It Begins 

My short lived, two-year Army mihtary service time began in 
the mid-winter of 1969. I was nineteen years old. One 
afternoon, arriving back at my parent's house on Paulina Street on 
Chicago's south side after working a double graveyard and morning 
shift pumping gas at the Clark gas station on 69th and Damen, my 
mother, Lillian, was sitting at the kitchen table with a forlorn look on 
her face. There in front of her was an envelope that had arrived in the 
mail that morning addressed to me from the Selective Service Bureau. 

I knew immediately what was inside. Inside was the dreaded 
Draft Board notice ordering me, under penalty of law by not 
reporting, to report to the Draft Board for my physical in two weeks. 
Oh baby, holy shit, here I go. I knew the draft notice was 
forthcoming eventually, but now reality was setting in upon me. 
I was going to be drafted into the United States Army. 

I was living the life of Riley at the time, working a job making 
some dough pumping gas, hanging out at Murray Park with my bros, 
playing hockey, dating girls, finally having my own car, going to the 
drag strip at US 30, playing drums in my rock and roll band, 
'The Fascinations,' and just doing all the things a nineteen year old 
teenager from the south side of Chicago could do. I was generally 
having a great time with my life. 

Two weeks later, there I was walking into the Army Induction 
Center near the outskirts of downtown Chicago to take my first 
military physical. Pretty much unnerved, I entered the facility 
beginning the long process of signing in, registering, getting finger 
printed, and going through all the procedures of taking the physical. 
That became my first encounter of the military complexities of hurry 
up and wait, stand on the line in front of you; follow the yellow line 
to the next station; follow the red line to the next station; follow the 
blue line to the next station; continuing to endlessly follow lines 
painted on the floor through the facility for the next six hours. 

Two weeks later, after passing my physical, I received my 
actual draft notice in the mail ordering me to report to the Army 
Inducfion Center on May 21st to take the Army oath, be formally 



Bud Monaco 



drafted into the Army, and sent to Basic Training. My life was over 
as I had known it. I'd now be in the Army for the next two years, and 
my Hfe would be changed forever. 

The following weeks went by in a blur. The night before I left, 
my mother Lillian and my father Patsy threw a big going away party 
for me in the basement of our house on Paulina Street. All my friends 
showed up as well as numerous family members and neighbors. We 
did some drinking, listened to music, shot the shit for hours, but 
I was not really having a good time at all knowing that in a few hours 
I was going away for the next two years. 

Almost all of the guys from the neighborhood had been drafted 
either before or soon after I was, and some of them had already been 
in and out of the Army. Some of them had been in combat in Vietnam 
but none of them talked much about it. During that winter, before 
I was inducted, I had seen four of my best friends that I grew up with 
after they came back from Vietnam. All four of them had been 
seriously wounded in Vietnam but didn't talk about it at the time. But 
after my hitch in the Army, they all were able to tell me about it 
many years later. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 



Chapter 2 

''Great Men Are Not Just Born. 

Great Men Grow For This To Become. 

Soldiers Are Not Just Born. 

Soldiers Grow, Are Made, For This To Become.'' 

Butch Hayes had been blown off an armored personnel carrier 
(APC) by a Viet Cong rocket propelled grenade (RPG), and had 
his back broken while in combat in the jungle up in the Central 
Highlands. Butch, with about a dozen of his platoon buddies, were 
riding on the top of the APC heading back to a base camp after a long 
patrol when they were ambushed by the Viet Cong. The RPG blew 
them all off of the APC as well as blowing up the APC, killing all the 
soldiers inside, and all but two of the soldiers that were on top. Butch, 
being one of the survivors, was knocked out cold from the RPG blast 
and blown twenty feet through the air, landing in a tree between two 
big branches that held him up. When Butch came to, managing to 
lower himself from the tree, not knowing his back was broken, but in 
extreme pain, still being able to function somewhat, he found that all 
the rest of the soldiers were killed except one soldier who was 
seriously wounded. So somehow. Butch dragged the wounded 
soldier into the jungle, crawling on his hands and knees while 
continuing to drag his wounded buddy through the bush. Hours later, 
both of them just about dead, came across a friendly combat patrol 
that heard them crawling through the bush. Those soldiers carried 
Butch and the other wounded soldier to the nearest base camp where 
they were both quickly medevaced out by helicopter to the nearest 
MASH field hospital. Butch was now healing up well and could still 
walk. He was not crippled, but he had a long recuperation, 
rehabilitation, and many VA Hospital visits ahead of him 
for the next few years. 

Joe Anderson was in the 101st Airborne Division attached to 
the 5th US Ranger Brigade and had part of his face and jaw blown 
off by a Viet Cong grenade while driving a jeep in Saigon. Joe was 
pretty much unrecognizable from the injuries until the Army 
surgeons started putting his face back together. He was going back 
and forth to the VA Hospital having plastic surgery operations on a 
weekly basis for a long period of time. 



Bud Monaco 



Pat Carolan was in the 4th Infantry Division, 3rd Battalion, 12th 
Infantry Regiment, and his unit had been patrolling the jungle 
somewhere near Kontum and Pleiku in the Central Highlands. 
Making contact with the enemy, during the subsequent fire fight, 
Pat, under fire, had stepped on a Viet Cong pungi stick while trying 
to take cover, which went through the heel of his combat boot, up 
through his heel, into the back of his calf muscle, and into the back 
of his leg. He was impaled on the pungi stick, not able to extricate 
himself from it. Two of his buddies had to run up to him under 
fire, pulling him off of the pungi stick, yanking tendons and 
muscle through his leg. 

After the fire fight was over, with Pat and his platoon killing 
numerous enemy soldiers, the rest of the Viet Cong disappeared into 
the jungle as they always did. Pat was eventually medevaced out of 
the triple canopy jungle, where there was no landing zone (LZ), when 
he acquired further injuries that he would carry for the rest of his life. 
Pat was put on a hoist bracket extraction wire with a jungle penetrator 
extractor hooked on the end of the wire. The wire and penetrator 

were hooked up to a motorized winch 
on the Huey Medevac Chopper 
hovering a hundred feet just over the 
top of the jungle canopy. 

The jungle penetrator was a small 
metal plate to sit on with three reversed, 
triangular, conical-shaped metal flanges 
below the seat plate, which would cut 
/J through the jungle canopy without 

^F/ ^ getting tangled in the trees or vines. 

• \ While he was being extracted 

through the jungle canopy, the chopper 
started taking ground fire from the 
nearby Viet Cong who were still in the area. The chopper pilot started 
pulling away to avoid the ground fire before Pat had cleared the top 
of the jungle canopy, dragging him through the tree line, spinning 
him, tangling his elbow around the wire, smashing him into the trees 
while the extraction wire continued to wrap around his arm, 
crushing his forearm, hand, and tendons in the process. 




DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 



The chopper pulled away to get out of range of the ground fire, 
which was Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that the chopper 
pilots were instructed to do. The reason for this was so that the ground 
fire did not bring down the chopper with the two pilots, two door 
gunners, and the crew chief, which would most likely destroy the 
chopper, killing everyone in it if it was shot down and crashed. So 
the guy on the wire became an acceptable casualty, if that became 
the case, rather than losing the chopper and the five soldiers of the 
chopper crew. It was a tough choice that the chopper pilot had to 
make, but this was one of the things that happened in combat under 
enemy fire. Luckily, Pat survived. 

Tom 'Fox' Boyle was in the 101st Airborne Division, and was 
attached to a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol. They were called 
Lerps, with the acronym LRRP giving them their distinctive unit 
designation with the 75th Ranger Battalion. 

The Lerp's job in combat was just as their designation said. 
They would be inserted into the jungle by chopper in long ranges 
from base camps and search on patrol doing reconnaissance, looking 
for signs of the Viet Cong hiding or moving through the jungle, get 
extracted, and report the coordinates. Then the commanders would 
call in air strikes on the located enemy positions and blow those 
fucking VC back into the Stone Age. During one insertion, they were 
unknowingly inserted right into the middle of a Viet Cong battalion. 
Only after the first four of six of them were already on the ground, 
after rappelling on a fast rope from the Huey Chopper Gun Ship 
hovering sixty feet above, did they start to take fire while Fox was 
still on the rope rappelling to the ground. 

Under fire, the chopper pilot started to pull away to avoid the 
ground fire, and by the time Fox got to the end of the rappelling rope, 
he was out of rope, still twenty feet from the ground. Fox then free 
fell the rest of the way, crashing into the ground, breaking his hip. 
Now under fire with a full assault underway by the Viet Cong, Fox 
and the other four soldiers on the ground made a small perimeter, 
started fighting back, firing their M-16s, their M-79 grenade 
launchers, and hurling hand grenades to hold off the enemy attackers 
who were trying to kill them. Trying to hold off the enemy, the Cobra 
Gun Ship that was flying tandem with the Huey Gun Ship covering 



Bud Monaco 



the insertion, together, were able to get into position to start bringing 
some major fire power down on the enemy. 

The guys on the ground, under intense fire, needed air support 
to keep the Viet Cong from overrunning the five of them, now all 
wounded and running low on ammunition. The Huey and the Cobra 
sure saved the day and brought death from above, with .60 caliber 
machine guns firing from both sides of the Huey, .20 mm mini gun 
cannon fire ripping out of the nose of the Cobra as well as numerous 
types of high explosive rockets, killing numerous Viet Cong, driving 
back the rest of them deep into the jungle, running like hell to get out 
of the killing zone. Then the Huey came in to recover the wounded 
Lerps, hovering a foot off the ground, not actually landing, for a 
quick exit. With the Huey Door Gunners blazing away with both 
twin .60 caliber machine guns. Fox, dragged by his web gear 
by the other four Lerps, clambered into the chopper, 
getting the fuck outta Dodge. 

It was Purple Hearts all around for Butch, Joe, Pat, and Fox. 
That was what I had to look forward to. Quite shocking to me for 
sure. Would I survive the war? Would I come back wounded like my 
friends? Would I come back at all? Time would tell. 

There were many other friends I grew up with, and men 
I became friends with after I was discharged, who I must mention 
and pay tribute to, as they all served their country with honor as 
well: Danny 'Red' Hughes, Cloudy Patterson, Ray Majdecki, Charlie 
Prosapio, Larry Swakon, Skip McMullan, Charlie 'Skip' Miller, Wally 
Pasch, Jim Peterson, Jimmy Johanson, Eddie Fitzpatrick, Walt Klien, 
Jack Starshak, Ron Tuskowski, Barron Buchunas, Keith Buchunas, 
Mickey Soraghan, Santo Procenti, John 'Doc' Hamm, Tommy 
Blinstrub, Eddie Hederman, and my friend I grew up with, Kenny 
Perry, who was killed in action in Vietnam. 

Kenneth 'Kenny' E. Perry, served with the 1st Marine Division, 
26th Marine Regiment, 1st Battalion, and he was killed in action on 
January 3, 1970 while leading a group of Marines under heavy 
enemy fire in combat south of Da Nang in Quang Nam Provence. 
Kenny was serving his second tour in Vietnam, and his father, 
Kenneth Sr., had told my father, who wrote me with the information 
while I was stationed in Central America, that Kenny had been 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now: 



awarded three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, and a Silver Star during 
his two tours in Vietnam. He received the Bronze Star for rescuing 
fellow Marines by helping them board a chopper while under intense 
enemy fire. He received the Silver Star for holding off the Viet Cong 
during a battle for four hours. Rest In Peace Kenny. Thank you for 
giving the ultimate sacrifice with your life, serving in combat for our 
country and your fellow Marines. You Are Not Forgotten. 

To this day, over forty years later, I still hold deep in my heart 
with love and appreciation in the highest regards of honor and 
dignity, those brothers, as well as all the other friends and soldiers 
who served in the military during the Vietnam War, performing their 
duty to defend our country with their flesh and blood. It is soldiers 
like those who are the real heroes of our nation, and we should never 
forget the sacrifices they gave. 

This stands true deep in my heart also for all the American 
soldiers who served our country during WW I, WW II in the Pacific, 
North Africa, Europe, Korea, Grenada, Panama, Somalia, and those 
who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the soldiers who are 
still fighting the wars over there, out in the sand and the mountains in 
the Middle East, including my father Patsy, his two brothers Eddie, 
and Tony who I never knew, as he was killed in France in combat. 

You must also keep in mind and remember that the soldiers that 
served in WW II and Korea were in those wars for the duration. There 
were no two-year draftees or three-year enlistment programs with 
twelve-month combat rotations. Those soldiers were in for the long 
haul from the git-go and the whole nine yards, with many of their 
tours of duty lasting four to five years. 

All gave some. Some gave all. 

Some continue to give all and die. 

I salute them honorably. 

Here's to them, and here's to the rest. Damn few left!! 

Thank You For Our Freedom. You Are Not Forgotten. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 




Chapter 3 

The morning I dreaded most at that time in my life finally 
arrived. I had stayed up all night and did not sleep at all. After 
saying goodbye to my tearful mother, and as I was saying goodbye 
to my father, he had a forlorn look on his face, knowing what I was 
getting into. He had served in the Army during WW II for four years 
stationed in the Aleutian Islands in the Pacific, Europe, France, 

Germany, and Belgium, seeing first hand 
his share of Army life and death during 
war time. His younger brother Tony had 
been killed in acfion in France, which still 
weighed heavily upon him during the 
past twenty-five years. Patsy, my dad, 
looked me in the eyes and said, "Let me 
tell you this, and dont ever forget it. 
Keep your eyes and ears open. Keep your 
mouth shut. And, don't ever volunteer for 
anything^ I learned during my time in 
service over the next two years that no truer words were ever spoken 
by him. I kept my promise to him that I would listen to what he said, 
saving me from lots of further grief during my time of service 
by following his advice. 

My pal Frankie drove me to the induction center that somber 
morning with my pal Keith riding shotgun. They had both stayed up 
all night with me listening to WLS on a transistor radio, talking shit 
for hours on end, and it was now 6:00 a.m. when Frankie pulled up to 
the front door of the induction center in his cherry, '57 Ford Skyliner 
Hardtop Convertible. We said our goodbyes, and off I dejectedly 
rambled through the front door of the induction center, saying goodbye 
to civilian life and the World for the next two years. 

Quite frankly, I don't remember much of the fime that morning 
as all of us new recruits were quickly shuffled through the inducfion 
process. It was quite a blur, and not having any sleep for the past 
forty-eight hours, I was in a stupor with a very cramped brain drain. 
I remember that during one of the processes, we were lined up in a 
hall way where there was a sergeant standing between two doors, 
and the guys lined up in front of us were counting off, one, two. 



10 Bud Monaco 



three, four, with the first three counting recruits directed through one 
door, and the fourth recruit directed through the other door. 

The guy behind me said, "Fuck, they are drafting recruits into 
the Marines these days, and every fourth recruit that gets sent through 
the other door is going into the Marines, winding up shipping out to 
Parris Island. Fuck that, I don't want to go into the fucking Marines! 
Switch places with me." I said to him, "Fuck you. Fm staying right 
where Fm at." By the time I got up to the sergeant, two recruits in 
front of me counted off, one, two, and I counted off three, and the 
jackoff behind me, who tried to con me into switching places, counted 
off four. He's fucked, directed through the other door heading to 
Parris Island to become a Marine. Ha, dodged my first bullet. My 
father's advice of not volunteering for anything had already paid off 
in the first few hours. 

I remember standing at attention for the first time in a room 
with a hundred other recruits taking the Military Oath of Enlistment. 
That was when we all heard our first official military order. 

The sergeant in charge told us to, "Fall in on the yellow lines 
and stand at attention. Keep your backs straight, heels together, arms 
at your sides, and heads looking straight forward. Stand one arm 
length from the man next to you. Now raise your right hand and 
repeat after me. "I," each of us saying our names as instructed, "Do 
solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the 
United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will 
bear true faith and allegiance to the same, and that I will obey the 
orders of the President of the United States, and the orders of the 
officers appointed over me, according to the regulations and the 
Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God." Now, there 
was no way out. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 11 



Chapter 4 



''Today Is The First Day Of The End Of Your Life: 
As You Once Knew It.'' 

We were finally done with the induction process. Groups of us 
were given train tickets and directions to walk together to the 
train station. I don't remember the train station, but it was walking 
distance, where we would board the designated train taking us to a 
bus station in Clarksville, Tennessee, for the final leg of our 
transportation by bus to Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The train ride took 

about seven hours. 
Some of us slept a bit, 
but there wasn't 
much conversation 
going on at all. Each 
man lost in his 
own thoughts about 
his fate and the 
following two years 
of Army life. 

The bus entered Fort Campbell, stopping at our Basic Training 
location, and even before we got off the bus, four drill instructor 
sergeants came storming on board immediately screaming at us to, 
"Get off this bus right now in double time. Fall into formation on the 
designated painted footprints on the ground and stand at attention. 
Move your asses now!" We all scrambled off the bus like a Chinese 
fire drill, taking our places in formation on the painted footprints in 
front of the Training Company's building. And, very quickly at that. 
Standing in formation at attention, the head DI sergeant 
screamed, "You're in the Army now! You are trainees, not soldiers, 
nothing more. For the next eight weeks you will be in Basic Training 
under our command, and we are going to make soldiers out of every 
last one of you swinging dicks one way or the other. You will obey 
and follow every command or order that any DI or anyone else gives 
you immediately and without hesitation. Is that clear?" We all 
tentatively answered, "Yes." Then he screamed at us, "Yes? You bunch 
of dumb shit dip sticks. When you are asked a question, or when you 




12 Bud Monaco 



are talking to any DI, NCO, or officer, you will sound off like you 
have a pair of balls with the loudest voice you have, sir, yes sir, drill 
sergeant, sir, every time, with no reservations, or I'll stomp you into 
the ground and nail your balls to the wall! Now, is that clear?" 
We then all screamed out, "Sir, yes sir, drill sergeant, sir!" He 
screamed back at us, "What was that? I can't hear you!" We all 
screamed back even louder this time, "Sir, yes sir, drill sergeant, sir!" 
He said to us, "That's more like it. Now drop and give me fifty 
push-ups and count off in cadence." We now knew that we were 
in the Army now for sure. 

It was now late at night, and none of us had eaten since we left 
Chicago. We were marched over to the mess hall, given something to 
eat, marched back to our barracks, assigned our bunks with no sheets 
or pillows, just bare mattresses, and told to get some sleep for a few 
hours. And it was only a few hours later when three DIs came 
busting into the barracks, well before it was first light outside, 
banging garbage can covers together like cymbals, screaming at us, 
"Get out of those racks you shit heads! Drop your cocks and grab 
your socks. Stop your dreaming and creaming. Fall out into 
formation and stand at attention. What are you waiting for? An 
engraved invitation. Move, move, move your sorry asses!" 

We all franticly scrambled out of the barracks, fell into 
formation, and were immediately told to, "Drop and give me fifty." 
We were then allowed to go back into the barracks to use the latrine, 
but were only allowed twenty minutes to do so before we were 
ordered to fall into formation again. Anyone having the GI shits and 
doing the Aztec Two Step was up shits creek. The next piss call 
wouldn't be for quite some time. 

That was our first daily reveille formation, which would be 
repeated every day of our lives for the next two years. Reveille was 
attended by every soldier, on every base, every day. Standing in 
formation at attention, the DIs took a head count, and then over 
loudspeakers called bitch boxes placed on poles all over the Fort, the 
reveille song would blast out as we saluted the daily raising of the 
flag in front of the Fort's headquarters building, which we 
could not actually see. 

We then marched over to the mess hall, rushed from hell to 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 13 



breakfast, by the numbers, five at a time, for a very quick breakfast 
of chipped beef on toast, commonly called shit on a shingle, quickly 
rushed out of the mess hall, lined back up in formation, marched 
back to the barracks to collect our bags and personal items, and 
marched to our next location. 

We were then marched into a building like a classroom and seated 
down at school desks. Everyone had been carrying some kind of 
suitcase or bag with personal items of clothing, shaving kits and 
whatnot. We were each signed in as the DIs checked our 
identifications from the draft board and instructed to fill out 
questionnaires with all our pertinent information, like parents' names, 
hometown and address, race, religion, education, and all the rest. 

During that time, the DIs were going from trainee to trainee, 
first, physically searching each of us, telling us to only leave on the 
desk in front of us our wallets, civilian IDs, toothbrush, toothpaste, 
and shaving gear, if we had any, and to put anything else on our 
persons on the floor with our suitcases or bags. Secondly, we were 
told to pick up our belongings from the floor, marched back outside 
where there was a big dumpster, and told to throw everything that we 
had that was on the floor into the dumpster. We would be allowed to 
keep nothing except what they had designated. No exceptions 
whatsoever, being left only with our latrine gear, shoes, and the clothes 
on our backs. Watches, rings, jewelry, civilian IDs and wallets were 
put into envelopes with our names on them, collected by the DIs, and 
we were told we would get them back at the completion of our Basic 
Training. They were removing all traces of our civilian lives, putting 
us under their complete control. 

The next order was to fall back into formation and stand at 
attention. By now, they surely had our attention. We were all shaking 
in our shoes, scared shitless, not knowing what would come next. 
Next was a march to the barber shop where, one by one, we had any 
remaining trace of dignity we had left removed as they shaved off all 
of our hair right down to our skulls. Shockingl It was just absolutely 
shocking, seeing our hair being shaved off our heads in the barber's 
mirrors and falling to the floor in big clumps. This only took 
about a minute each for us to end up looking the same as one 
kind of Army trainee. 



14 Bud Monaco 



Next, we were marched to a medical building, and one by one 
as we entered, we were told to remove all our clothes and throw them 
into a garbage can near the entrance. Standing naked, we were then 
instructed to enter a shower facility, made to shower, and then we 
were all deloused with some powder they sprayed on us. At the next 
station we were issued official Army underwear, OD green, olive 
drab, shorts and white t-shirts, which we would later have our last 
names stenciled on so the DIs could identify each of us and scream 
out our names when a trainee would fuck up. If not before, now none 
of us had any trace left of civilian life to our bodies or our clothes. 
The deprogramming from civilian to soldier was in full swing. 

We then lined up to have our military IDs and dog tags made. 
We were told to carry the ID in our pocket, wear our two dog tags 
around our necks at all times, and to never take them off, ever, or we 
would be severely punished. 

Standing in line, assholes to elbows, we approached a long table 
where the Army medics were lined up to give us our series of 
inoculations. We would receive never-ending inoculations time after 
time at every duty station we were assigned for the next two years. 
During Basic Training we would receive inoculations at least a half 
dozen times or more. I always had a phobia about getting shots my 
whole life, but this Army procedure was a real fucking trauma for 
me to deal with. 

The first set of shots were done in one arm with an actual needle, 
and hurt like hell. The medics had no bedside manner whatsoever, 
jamming the needle into you as fast as they could in a big hurry, as 
there were hundreds of trainees to inoculate. After the second shot, I 
got weak in the knees and started to faint, as well as numerous other 
trainees. Recovering somewhat, I moved further on down the line 
where the medics had those newfangled inoculation guns that used 
compressed air pressure to shoot the shit into your arm with the press 
of a button on the gun. They would just press the tip of the gun to 
your arm, pull the trigger, and the shit would shoot right into your 
arm in a second. It was not painless in the least bit, just quicker. 

As I approached the next medic, he got distracted, not watching 
what he was doing, and as he placed the tip of the gun to my arm it 
turned a bit sideways and the compressed air blast did not go straight 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 15 



into my arm. The blast went sideways across my arm with the 
compressed air and the juice sHcing through my skin Hke a razor 
blade, cutting my arm open with a two inch cut. "Fuck, that hurt," 
I yelled out and then started to get weak in the knees, actually 
fainting this time. One of the DIs rushed up to hold me up and the 
goddamned medic just put the gun to my arm and zapped me again 
as I passed out into the arms of the DI. I came to a few minutes later 
with a medic standing over me. They had sat me in a chair and he 
said, as he slapped a small band aid over the cut, "You'll live. This is 
the least amount of pain you'll endure over the next eight weeks, you 
pussy." Weakly getting on my feet, I was instructed by a DI to go 
through a door ahead where the rest of the trainees were filing through 
a long line, being issued two sets of Army fatigues, hats, socks, 
underwear, boots, laundry bag, sheets, pillow cases, pillows, the 
ubiquitous, brown, scratchy wool Army blankets, and a duffle bag 
we would need for Basic Training. Putting on our first set of Army 
clothing, we were then marched to another building, which was 
the Supply building. 

In the Supply building, we were issued our training equipment 
of web gear, pistol belt, steel pot helmet, helmet liner, ammo pouch, 
medical bandage pouch, canteen, water proof bag, back pack, 
entrenching tool, gas mask, poncho, mess kit, basic shaving gear, 
toothpaste, and a toothbrush. We were told in no uncertain words, 
that all clothing and equipment was our own responsibility, and if we 
were to misplace or lose anything, we would have to pay for it to be 
replaced. We would also be severely beaten about our head and 
shoulders. No exceptions. 

Running outside in double time, we all took our places in 
formation, with every swinging dick trainee looking exactly the same 
in Army fatigues, boots, and shaved heads, with no trace of civilian 
life left to see. But there was still much civilian mentality that would 
be beaten out of us in the weeks to come. It was replaced with 
military discipline and training. 

The civihan deprogramming and dehumanization of our souls 
was certainly upon us all. All that, and it was only iht first day! 
"Holy shit," was all that we could think, and with that, the next rant 
from the DI was, "You all are nothing. You are non-existent as 



16 Bud Monaco 



human beings. The best part of you ran down your mamma's leg. 
You are all abominations and need to be erased. But I'm stuck with 
every goddamned one of you swinging dicks. I will make soldiers 
out of every last fucking one of you or kill you right out and piss in 
your grave. Now that all of you douche bag, shit-for-brains trainees 
actually look like trainees, drop and give me fifty!" Fuck us. Fuck 
me! Here we go. And it began. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 17 



Chapter 5 



''What Depths Of Civilian Cleansing Can A Man Endure? 

Time Shows. 

A Boy Learns. 

A Man Will Soon Be Present. 

A Man Becomes A Soldier And Prepares For War' 

We marched back to our company area, and that would be the 
last time we marched anywhere for the next eight weeks, 
ordered back into the barracks to store our new clothing and gear, 
and back outside into formation. Our first training exercise was to 
begin. Instructed to strip off our fatigue shirts and soft hats, placing 
them on the ground in front of us, the next commands were to, "Left 
face. Forward, march. Quick time march and we started to run. And 
we ran, and we ran, and we ran, in formation, by the numbers, with 
the DIs running right alongside of us singing out in cadence, "Gimme 
your left, your left, your left right left," in the sing-song voice of 
Army cadence call, which we all would be taught to do individually, 
taking turns calling cadence every time we ran in formation. 

Running in formation to the cadence count by the DIs, and 
trainees bellowing out in synchronicity, sounded like a barber shop 
quartet on steroids. We would never walk or march anywhere again 
for the following eight weeks. If you went from point A to point B, 
even if it was only ten feet, you would run. There was no walking 
anywhere at any time for trainees. If you were caught walking and 
not running, it would be the never-ending "Drop and give me fifty" 
routine. No exceptions. 

After that first agonizing, seemingly never-ending run, we were 
then given our first drill and ceremony exercise on the training field, 
which would become the dreaded training field in a very short time. 
All to be done by the book and by the numbers. The first parts of D & 
C training, as there would be other facets of D & C, including 
learning later on how to carry and march with a rifle properly, was 
learning how to line up in formation properly, march in step, run in 
step, right face, left face, about face, and how to properly 
salute officers and the flag. 

In regards to a proper salute, we were taught to bring our right 



18 Bud Monaco 



arm straight up sharply to the brim of our hats or helmets, fingers flat 
and together, wait for the officer to return the salute, and then smartly 
drop your arm back to your side. One trainee asked the DI, "How do 
we know who to salute?" The DI said, 'Tf it moves, salute it. If it 
runs, shoot it. If it is stationary, paint it OD green." 

D & C seemed simple enough. Yeah, right. Not in the least bit. 
Trainees were tripping over their own feet, stepping on the guy's 
foot in front of him, bumping into the guy in front of him, turning to 
the left for a right face, looking like a bunch of fucking monkeys 
from a gorilla love in. Some trainees didn't know their asses 
from their elbows. 

Constantly, the DIs were getting right up into our faces, an inch 
from nose to nose, screaming at us with spit flying out of their mouths 
to, "Get in step you goddamned chowder-heads. Don't you know 
your right foot from your left you tangle-footed clodhopper? You 
ain't worth a bucket of warm spit or know how to walk and chew 
gum at the same time. Are you all fucking stupid morons or what? 
Keep your backs straight when standing at attention or I'll tear you a 
new asshole. Heels together, feet spread at a forty-five degree angle. 
That's not a proper salute you bunch of jackoff chuckle-heads. Do 
you hear me? Drop and give me fifty." "Sir, yes sir, drill sergeant, 
sir," we would all sound off as loud as we could and drop, giving 
them fifty more push-ups. 

Lunch time arrived. We ran in formafion to the mess hall, going 
through the same routine, by the numbers, as we did for breakfast. 
Again, very quickly. It was no high school cafeteria. After eaUng our 
chow, which contained foul-looking mystery meat with some creamed 
corn that looked like gruel, we ran back to the training field and were 
given instrucfions for learning our daily routine of, by the numbers 
also, the infamous Army daily dozen calisthenics. 

The daily dozen included push-ups, jumping jacks, four-part 
waist bends touching your toes with arms extended, waist swings 
with arms extended, knee bends arms akimbo, squats, four-part squat 
thrusts, leg lifts lying on your back, standing leg lifts, leg lifts lying 
on your side and stomach, back reverse arches lying on your face, 
and running in place. 

Most of us struggled intensely, but after the first week 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 19 



mercifully came to an end, we all started to get in pretty good shape 
and were getting a grasp of the physical training of the Army 
routines that were being drilled into us eighteen hours a day. It is 
said that profusely stressing the body so it changes the metabolism 
makes for a stronger body. We were definitely profusely stressing 
our bodies, and it was totally leaving our dicks in the dirt. 
Welcome to the club. 

During the second week of Basic Training, we were 
introduced to another phase of physical training in another area of 
the training field that made the daily dozen seem like a walk in the 
park. Now we had to learn how to do proper chin-ups, which the 
Army called pull-ups, having to do a dozen at a time on the pull-up 
bars, hanging with your arms fully extended, doing the pull-up to 
below your chin, and back down to a fully extended posifion. We had 
to do this with both hands facing and then with hands reversed on the 
bar. Then we learned how to negotiate the horizontal ladders, which 
were a dozen bars, spaced two feet apart from one end of the 
apparatus to the next, having to traverse the bars from one end, 
and then turning around, still hanging from the bars, going 
back to the starting point. 

Now for the real nut-crunching with the Army's low-crawl 
training. The low-crawl consisted of you face down in the prone 
position on your stomach, keeping your stomach, chest, hips, and 
balls pressed tightly to the ground, and using your hands, legs, and 
feet to propel you across the ground in a crawling posifion, kind of 
like a lizard, for twenty yards at a fime one way, turning around in 
the prone posifion, returning to the starting point twenty yards the 
other way. The low-crawl kicked royal ass. You wound up completely 
encrusted in dirt from head to toe, with dirt jammed into 
your mouth and nose. 

The low-crawl became the most hated drill for us, and later on 
in further training exercises, we had to learn to do it with our rifles 
cradled in our arms, crawling under barbed wire that was barely a 
foot off the ground. Further on in Basic Training, on another training 
course area, we had to do the low-crawl under layers of barbed wire, 
cradling our rifles, while we were under simulated live fire, with 
simulated rifle fire being shot over our prone bodies, and explosions 



20 Bud Monaco 



going on in fox holes alongside the lanes we were low-crawling 
through. The DIs told us to never stand up during that training 
exercise because they would be firing live rounds over our heads. 
Wonderful. With all the other terror we had already endured, that 
scared the living shit out of us, and of course, no one stood up, as we 
kept our bodies glued to the ground, trying to bury our heads in dirt. 
We later learned that they really were not shooting live rounds over 
our heads. By then, we all wished someone would put a bullet into us 
to end the never-ending misery of Army Basic Training. 

Did I mention that it was hotl I mean air temperature that was 
downright goddamned hotter than a hot greased Kentucky pig 
cooking on an open grill at an outdoor barbeque. Sizzling. It was the 
middle of June, ninety-five degrees plus, in the dog days of summer 
in southwest Kentucky, bordering the Tennessee state line. 

The continuous heat kicked everyone's ass every day. A lot of 
trainees dropped from heat exhaustion on a regular basis, and we had 
a daily routine of taking our salt tablets, and drinking lots of water, 
when the DIs allowed water breaks, to keep hydrated. No one was 
allowed to drink any water unless we were given the order to do so. 
Everyone was only allowed to drink from our canteens when a DI 
gave us permission. No one drank water alone. If one trainee drank 
water, we all drank water. No exceptions. Any trainee caught 
drinking water without permission was chastised and punished. "Drop 
and give me fifty" was the standard. It was no pleasant walk in the 
sun. Just debilitating heat and sweat day after day, with no respite 
from the heat, even during the hours of darkness. And it would get 
even hotter in July. Lovely. Just lovely. 

In regards to only being able to have a drink of water when 
allowed by a DI, was also the unquestionable rule for smoking. No 
one was allowed to smoke unless a DI gave the order, "The smoking 
lamp is lit," or the devil would be upon you like a train wreck if you 
were caught otherwise. And, when a DI said, "The smoking lamp is 
out," you damn well better put out your smoke right then and there or 
the chastisement and punishment would be upon you in a heartbeat. 
"Drop and give me fifty." That originally was a big problem for some 
of the trainees who were heavy smokers. Some of the guys could 
smoke a cigarette on a roller coaster at Riverview Amusement Park, 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 21 



or in the shower, keeping the light going, and not even got the 
cigarette wet! It took some time for those guys to adjust their 
smoking habits, but those that tried to sneak a puff always wound up 
getting caught and punished. 

There was no flipping your cigarette butt on the ground 
either. You would have to field strip the butt by knocking off the 
light, stripping away the paper, letting the unburned tobacco fall to 
the ground, and put the paper and the filter in your fatigue pants 
pocket. Any trainee caught flipping a butt on the ground, it was, "Drop 
and give me fifty." If there was anything else on the ground or not, 
this routine went on every day. It was called Police Call, as everyone 
would line up in a row, walk the company area, pick up the smallest 
piece of anything on the ground, and put it in your pocket. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 23 



Chapter 6 

"A Boy Is A Boy Growing Up Back On The Concrete Blocks 

Or In The Fields Of Grain. 

Boys Become Men Through Soldiering Ways. 

Hard Training Nights And Longer Days. 
Only Then, Can They Become ....A Soldier' 

The next big training day had now arrived, that being the day we 
were issued our first weapons. We ran over to the Armory 
building early one morning and were issued our Garand M- 14 Rifles 
and Garand M-1 Bayonets. 

Once a trainee was issued his rifle, it was absolutely his 
responsibility to keep the rifle in his possession and secured at all 
times. If you went to take a piss, you carried the rifle with you. If you 

went into the barracks, you carried the 
rifle with you. You never set it down or 
dropped it. If you did, it was, "Drop and 
give me fifty." There were numerous times 
you were allowed to keep the weapon in 
the barracks overnight, and you had to 
sleep with it in your rack. Anytime we 
went into the mess hall or a class room, 
our rifles would be stacked outside, with 
a trainee guarding them at all times. You 
also had to memorize your rifle's serial 
number, and the DIs would constantly 
scream at you to holler out your rifle's 
serial number, as well as your personal Army serial number. Those 
numbers were drummed into our heads, on at least an hourly basis 
every day, and you better know them or you know what. 
"Drop and give me fifty." 

Having been issued our M-14s, before we headed off to the rifle 
range, first we had to learn how to use the Army bayonet, which was 
lovingly called a frog sticker. The bayonet course was no walk in the 
sun either. We were taught how to attach the bayonet to our rifles, 
which was a pretty simple operation, but it had to be done by the 
numbers. Once we had that figured out, the actual bayonet training started. 




24 Bud Monaco 



The bayonet course was a big field with large wooden frames 
that had big, long, burlap bags filled with straw and were the size of 
a man hanging on them. There were a dozen rows of bags, with a 
dozen of them in each row laid out across the field about five yards 
apart from each row. We would line up across the beginning of the 
course, a dozen trainees to a line, one line of trainees after the other. 
When the command was given, each line of trainees would run up to 
the first row of bags, stabbing, slashing, and jabbing at the bags with 
our bayonets attached to our rifles. There was a system of that 
stabbing, slashing, and jabbing. If you didn't do it correctly, it was, 
"Drop and give me fifty." 

The DIs instructed us to scream out, "Yaaaa, Yaaaa, Yeeehaaa," 
as we ran forward to the bag in front of us. At each line of bags one 
of the DIs standing there would scream at us, "What is the spirit of 
the bayonet fighter?" We responded, "The spirit of the bayonet fighter 
is to kill, drill sergeant, to kill!" We would do that to our hanging 
bags screaming and yelling the whole time, then run forward to the 
next line of bags and do it again. That routine went on for hours, 
while the blazing sun beat down on us, taking the starch right out 
of our already beat-to-shit fatigues, leaving us completely 
sweat soaked and exhausted. 

Like I said, it was no walk in the sun. That bayonet training was 
done at least once a week. After the first two weeks, we all became 
pretty proficient in the use of the bayonet to kill or dispatch any 
enemy quickly and effectively. 

Now that we were issued our M-14s, after our first training 
exercises on the bayonet course, we were taught how to hold the rifle 
in shooting positions. It was drummed into us about windage and 
elevation to properly hit a target. Not until then, were we taken to the 
rifle range to learn how to shoot and operate it properly with live 
ammo. We were herded into long, open-air cattle trucks, which could 
hold fifty or sixty trainees, jammed into the bed of the trucks, and 
taken out to the rifle range. The rifle range is very serious business, 
and every single move that was made by the trainees, the DIs, or the 
rifle range instructors, was done exactly by the book, and by the 
numbers. No exceptions. They sure didn't want anyone accidently 
shooting any other trainees, DIs, or instructors. Every move that was 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now ! 25 



made by the trainees was only done by a direct command. Any trainee 
that fucked up in the slightest would receive the full wrath of the DIs 
or the instructors. So everyone paid real close attention to all the 
instructions during time spent on the rifle range. 

At the rifle range, about twenty trainees would line up behind 
the firing Hne with their M-14s at the ready, and a command was 
given to move forward to the ammo boxes with the live ammo. You 
then loaded eighteen rounds of 7.62, full metal jacket, ammo into 
your rifle magazine. The command was given to move forward to 
the firing positions, and the next command was to load your 
magazine into the weapon. Then, and only then, the next command 
was to, ''Lock and load one live round,'' into the rifle chamber, 
keeping your weapon pointed down range at all times. The 
commands by the rifle range instructors of, "Ready on the right. Ready 
on the left," and the command, "The firing line is ready," was shouted 
out. Then, and only then, the final command of, '' Commence firing,'' 
was given. Man o' man, was that a gas of a time, as we were finally 
able to fire our weapons with live ammo. 

After each trainee fired off, one at a time, all eighteen rounds of 
ammo, the instructors gave the command to, "Cease fire and clear all 
weapons." Before any trainee left the firing line, a DI, or instructor, 
would have to check the weapon to be sure there was no live ammo 
in the chamber, or in the magazine. Only then, would you be able to 
leave the firing line to take your place at the back of the lines of 
trainees waiting to approach the firing line. Line after line of trainees 
went through the procedure. Your place in line would 
eventually be in front again to take position on the firing line, and 
repeat the live fire procedures. 

Although there were paper targets down range for us to shoot 
at, not until we had fired our weapons two or three times from the 
firing line, were we told to, "Cease fire and clear all weapons," and 
walk down range to see if we had hit the targets. The trips to the rifle 
range went on at least three times a week. Ironically, while at the 
range, the DIs or instructors were not totally screaming at us and 
were somewhat laid back, but not much, about the whole process. 
I guess they didn't want to have us freaking out, screaming at us with 
live ammo in our weapons, and accidently shooting ourselves or 
blowing one of them away. 



26 Bud Monaco 



The next major training exercise during the following week, 
probably week four by now, was the giant and notorious obstacle 
course, which covered acres of land. The obstacle course had many 
large, imposing apparatuses that had to be climbed over, along with 
numerous, big mud pits filled with water, horizontal telephone poles 
that had to be traversed, rope bridges that had to be crossed, rope 
ladders that had to be climbed, overhanging barbed wire systems 
that we had to low-crawl under, and numerous other obstacles to be 
negotiated throughout the course. 

It took about thirty minutes to run through the obstacle course, 
if you were able to negotiate it all properly. If not, you had to go back 
to the start, and do it all over again until you got it right. Some of the 
trainees made it through with no problem, but many had to do it two, 
three, or four times to properly negotiate it. And the whole time the 
DIs were running alongside us, or standing next to the apparatuses, 
screaming bloody murder at us to, "Run faster, jump higher, get your 
face into the dirt, climb that rope, climb that wall, you sons of bitches, 
and sorry ass excuses for human beings." 

Every trainee had to properly negotiate every obstacle in a set 
period of time in order to pass that training exercise. All the previous 
and continuing training also had to be done with a set number of 
repetitions in a set time period or you would not pass, or be allowed 
to graduate. Any trainee not passing all the exercises would then be 
held back and have to repeat Basic Training over again. No one wanted 
to have to do that, with the fear of having to repeat all that shit again. 
So generally speaking, everyone did their best to pass all of 
the training exercises. 

That was the basics of Basic Training, day after day, night after 
night, for the eight weeks we were at Fort Campbell. There were not 
many other distractions at all. We were allowed to go to the Post 
Exchange (PX) on base, once every two weeks or so. One weekend, 
about the fifth week, our parents were allowed to visit us at the 
training facilities, with the DIs showing them around, explaining the 
training, verbally convincing them that their sons were in good hands, 
and being treated properly. They sucked that up completely. 
Yeah, right. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 27 



Chapter 7 

''What Was Life Last Week? 

What Is Life This Week? 

Damn, What Will Life Be Next Week?" 

We also were allowed one overnight pass around the sixth week, 
allowing us to put on our khaki uniforms to go into the nearby 
town of Clarksville, Tennessee. The overnight pass was in effect from 
Saturday afternoon around 3:00 p.m., and we had to be back on the 
base by 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. 

The only knowledge of Clarksville I had was from the popular 
song, 'Take The Last Train To Clarksville," by the 'Monkees, ' and 
I don't even know if they were singing about Clarksville, TN. So we 
all got on busses at the Fort, and headed into town just a few miles 

away across the state line. We first paired 
off, doubling up, locating a cheap hotel 
in town with cheap rooms to rent for the 
night, which had a swimming pool. 
After securing our rooms, we headed 
into the downtown area to walk around, 
drink some booze, for those who could 
get served at the bars, as most of us were 
not yet twenty-one years old, and 
hopefully fmd some women who would 
have sex with us. 

Finding women to have sex with 
any of us turned out to be a real pipe dream, as none of the local 
women would have anything to do with us. The trainees, like myself, 
who wore eyeglasses, didn't stand a chance, as the Army eyeglasses 
we were issued looked ugly as shit, making us endure major 
embarrassment just for wearing them. They were called, 'birth 
control glasses,' (BCGs) and rightly so. Clarksville was a small 
country town with one main drag about four blocks long lined with 
honkey tonk bars, juke joints, and fast food restaurants. The whole 
main drag was brimming with trainees and garrisoned soldiers from 
Fort Campbell from end to end. Lots of MPs were cruising around, 
and our DIs were also on hand, floating around the streets to keep an 
eye on us as best they could. 




28 Bud Monaco 



As our night on the town quickly passed, diminishing to 
nothing worthwhile in the least bit, we headed back to our hotel for 
the rest of our time off of the base. Some guys got naked and jumped 
in the pool, as there was no one else staying in this hotel except 
trainees and a few garrisoned soldiers from the Fort. Everyone was 
whooping and hollering, talking shit, watching TV, listening to 
music, smoking cigarettes, and just blowing off steam, enjoying a 
little bit of respite and freedom from the mind-fucking of 
Basic Training. We were all having a good time. 

Waking up the next morning, after sleeping late for the first 
time in weeks, one of the guys found out that one of the maids was 
turning tricks, and you could get a blow job and a fuck for twenty 
bucks. Holy shit was that great news! So shortly afterwards, we were 
all lined up to go into one of the rooms, and get laid by a hooker. We 
all thought we had died and gone to heaven. Everyone was trying to 
borrow money, as a lot of the guys had blown any dough they had 
in town the night before. 

Those lucky enough to have twenty bucks, and those lucky 
enough to be able to borrow twenty bucks, had the time of their lives, 
many having sex for the first time. And, none of us even gave the 
slightest thought or concern about catching the clap by banging a 
hooker who had just banged ten other guys. Nothing else mattered 
but having sex, no matter what the consequences. We reveled in it. 
I guess we all gambled and won, as I don't recall anyone catching 
the clap, because if anyone did catch the clap, it would have been 
known to everyone. The reason being, there was another classic Army 
formation called the short-arm inspection, which we all learned about 
soon after returning to the base. 

The Army short-arm inspection, which would remove any 
remaining dignity a man might have left in him from previous 
indignities endured, was that we would all line up in formation, and 
the DIs would walk through the ranks, stopping in front of every 
trainee, ordering them to drop their pants and show their dicks. The 
DI would take a quick look at your dick to see if you had any puss 
dripping out the head of your dick and look for any visible sores. 
Anyone found to have a dripping dick or sores would then be sent to 
sick call for treatment. What an undignified procedure, but effective 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 29 



in keeping trainees and soldiers healthy. 

That procedure has been in effect for many years, all the way 
back to WW I and WW II, to prevent the spread of disease, and or, 
actually causing the untimely death of soldiers who would not go to 
the Army doctors for treatment, as they would live in denial for fear 
of the painful inoculation procedures and reprimands they would have 
to suffer. A soldier would also receive an Article 15, non-judicial 
punishment prescribed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice 
(UCMJ) if he was found to have contracted the clap from not using 
proper prophylactic protection, and become unable to perform his 
soldiering duties. Lovely. Just lovely. 

There were also many shit details that trainees would be 
assigned that were added to the misery of Basic Training. If the 
training wasn't enough ball busting aggravation, the daily details of 
latrine cleaning, barracks cleaning. Company Headquarters building 
cleaning, fire guard duty, and kitchen patrol (KP), brought more 
insurmountable grief upon us. It was a major pain in the ass after 
busting balls all day long, and then after dinner mess call, one of 
the DIs would come into the barracks and assign trainees 
another cleaning detail. 

One of the cleaning details had two or three trainees having to 
clean the CO's and the IstSGT's offices with sweeping, mopping, 
dusting, and trash removal. One unique experience I had doing this 
detail was on the night of July 20, 1969; three of us were working a 
cleaning detail in the CO's office. One of the DIs was supervising us, 
and he was the CQ, charge of quarters sergeant for the night. He had 
a small TV turned on, and he called us over to the desk where he was 
sitting. He told us to watch what was on the TV. 

It turned out to be the Apollo 1 1 Spaceflight of the spacecraft 
Colombia that landed the first humans on the moon. We watched 
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin exit the Eagle Landing Craft and 
heard them say, "The Eagle Has Landed." Then when Armstrong 
hopped off the landing craft ladder, we heard him say, 'That's one 
small step for man. One giant leap for mankind." Damn, we thought 
we were on the moon struggling through Basic Training, and there 
those guys were actually on the fucking moon! I will always 
remember that time during such a dramatic time of humanity. 



30 Bud Monaco 



Continuing to suffer the wrath of the DIs, training day after day, 
absorbing the mental abuse, beat downs, the endless running, and 
the relentless inspections, the eight weeks of Basic Training, 
mercifully, was coming to its end. We had endured things mentally 
and physically that none of us would have ever fathomed being able 
to endure, and believe it or not, we were none the worse for wear and 
tear. Everyone was in great shape, acting and looking like soldiers. 
We were only a few days away from graduation and looking 
forward to it with great enthusiasm. 

The final marksmanship 
tests at the rifle range, physical 
training tests, the timed mile run, 
and the fmal obstacle course test 
were all jammed into the final 
days of week eight at a blistering 
pace. It was now Sunday, Basic 
Training Graduation Day. It had 
finally arrived, and we could 
hardly believe it. Dressed in our 
khaki uniforms, with all our brass 
and boots polished to a brilliant 
shine, we marched, yes, that's 
right, we marched, not having to run for the first time since we got 
off the busses eight weeks ago, to the parade field. 

With the Fort Polk Army Band blasting out the famed Army 
theme song ''When Those Caissons Go Rolling Along,'' we were 
marching in perfect formation, in perfect step and with the DIs 
shouting out cadence call. The reviewing stand was loaded with Army 
brass, looking like a goddamned Chinese opera. 

As our training company passed by the reviewing stand, the 
order was shouted out by one of the DIs, "Eyes right," and we all 
looked with eyes right for the first time, seeing all the Fort Campbell 
Brass in full dress uniforms decorated with their scrambled eggs 
embroidery on their hats and their fruit salad of medals on their chests, 
including the Commanding Officer General of Fort Campbell with 
his command staff of colonels, majors, captains, and senior 
non-commissioned officers of sergeant majors, and first sergeants 




DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 31 



standing at attention saluting us as we passed in review with our 
heads held high. We had made it. We survivedl We were soldiers. We 
would never forget that day. We were on the top of the world! 

Well, we didn't know shit at the time, as we were lost in our 
revelry, but we had made nothing. We survived nothing. We were not 
soldiers yet. We had no idea of what days of grief laid ahead for us at 
Advanced Individual Training with the toughest Army training that 
we could ever imagine yet, for us to be immersed in during the next 
nine weeks of AIT at Fort Polk, Louisiana. We were standing at the 
gates of Hell's front door and didn't know shit from shinola or have 
a clue about what was on the other side of that door. We were just 
getting started. Our shit would hit the fan with no visible end in sight 
for the next nine weeks within the next forty-eight hours. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 33 



Chapter 8 

History Of Fort Campbell, Kentucky 

The site for Camp Campbell was selected on July 16, 1941, and 
the Title I Survey was completed November 15, 1941, 
coincidentally the same time the Japanese Imperial Fleet was 
leaving Japan home waters for Pearl Harbor, with construction 
beginning January 12, 1942. Within a year, the reservation 
designated as Camp Campbell was developed to accommodate one 
armored division and various support troops with a total size of 
102,414 acres, and billets for 2,422 officers and 45,198 enlisted 
personnel. Due to its close proximity to Clarksville, Tennessee, the 
War Department on March 6, 1942, designated Tennessee as the 
official address of the new camp. That caused a great deal of 
confusion, since the Headquarters was in Tennessee and the post 
office was in Kentucky. After many months of mail delivery 
problems. Colonel Guy W. Chipman requested that the address be 
changed to Camp Campbell, Kentucky. The War Department 
officially changed the address on September 23, 1942. 

Early in the summer of 1942, the post's initial cadre, one officer 
and 19 enlisted men, arrived from Fort Knox, Kentucky. From that 
time until the end of World War II, Camp Campbell was the training 
ground for the 12th, 14th and 20th Armored divisions. Headquarters 
IV Armored Corps and the 26th Infantry Division. 

In the spring of 1949, the 11th Airborne Division arrived at 
Campbell following occupation duty in Japan. The 11th was in 
residence there until early 1956. 

By April, 1950, the post had evolved from a wartime training 
camp to a permanent installation and was renamed Fort Campbell. 

On September 21, 1956, Secretary of the Army Wilbur M. 
Bruckner and Army Chief of Staff General Maxwell D. Taylor, 
presented the colors of the 101st Airborne Division to 
Major General T.L. Sherbourne, the first commander of the new 
Airborne Division. This was the official ceremony reactivating the 
famed "Screaming Eagles" of World War II. 

On May 2, 1966, Third Army General Order 161 directed the 
activation of a Basic Combat Training Center at Fort Campbell. On 



34 Bud Monaco 



July 6, barely two months after its activation, Fort Campbell's Army 
Training Center received its first 220 newly inducted soldiers. Basic 
Combat Training began on schedule July 1 1 with a full complement 
of 1,100 trainees. The Training Center operated until April 15, 1972, 
when it was deactivated 

The 1st Brigade was sent for duty in Vietnam in July 1965. Soon 
thereafter, upon the escalation of hostilities in Southeast Asia, the 
rest of the division arrived. Also in response to the military buildup, 
the 6th Infantry Division was reactivated at Fort Campbell on 
November 24, 1966, and inactivated July 25, 1968. 

In September of 1971 the 173rd Airborne Brigade returned to 
Fort Campbell and conducted its official homecoming ceremonies, 
which were presided over by Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird. 
The 173rd was then inactivated on 14 January 1972 and its personnel 
and the equipment used to rebuild the 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne 
Division (Airmobile). The 3rd Brigade remained on jump status 
until April 1974, when its jump status was terminated and the 
division became entirely Airmobile. On April 6, 1972, the 101st 
Airborne Division, Airmobile, was officially welcomed back to its 
home station after the cessation of hostilities in Vietnam. The 
ceremonies were attended by Vice President Spiro T. Agnew and 
General William C. Westmoreland, Army Chief of Staff 

Presently, Fort Campbell is the home of the legendary, 
''Screaming Eagles/' the 101st Airborne Division (Airborne), the 
renowned ''Green Berets,'' the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 
the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), the 86th 
Combat Support Hospital, and the 716th Military Police Battalion. 
Once a year, the Sabalauski Air Assault School performs 
its annual training operations and awards about 4,000 
Silver Wings to its graduates. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now ! 35 



EVERY MAN A TIGER 



Chapter 9 

Tiger Land 

''You Will Fight And Die For American Democracy. 

You Will Fight And Die So Other Nations Can Have Democracy. 

But Here, You Will Obey Orders. 

This Is Not A Democracy. 

This Is The Army." 

August, 1969, Advanced Individual Training, known as AIT, at 
Fort Polk, LA, which was called ''Tiger Land: Every Man A 
Tiger,'' or to be made a Tiger one way or the other, no exceptions, 

was one hell of a ride 
for sure. Nine weeks, 
eighteen hours a day of 
ball-busting, stinking 
swamp shit, full-blown 
infantry and mortar 
training, hundred degree 
ass-sweating, full back 
pack with weapons 
marching and running, 
physical training, drill and ceremony training, running your balls off 
day and night, force marches, the escape and evasion course, and the 
prisoner of war (POW) compound, was an absolute motherfucking. 
Once we all finally made it through Basic Training at Fort 
Campbell, KY, and graduated, we were put on busses for the long 
ride further down into the southland to Fort Polk, LA, more so known 
as. Fort Puke, Lousy-anna. That was the first time in eight weeks that 
we had any type of solitude or freedom, except for the one overnight 
pass. Even though it was just being on the bus without drill sergeants 
screaming and yelling at us, it was something better than we had 
been going through. After eight weeks of no sleep and minimum 
outside or family contact, still in shock after our eight weeks of 
Basic Training, ass-aching bus ride or not, it was genuinely a lot 
more than comfortable for all of us. 




36 Bud Monaco 



The bus ride and route to Fort Polk was just a small prequel of 
what we were in for once we reached Fort Polk. Most of us had never 
been off the block or off the farm, or had done any travelling very far 
from our homes. Those of us from up north knew nothing of what the 
southern states were like. The bus route took many small roads through 
Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, into Louisiana, and we 
were introduced to the rural south, seeing what the rural country of 
America was like as we looked forlorn out the bus windows seeing 
mostly beyond poor black people living in broken down corrugated 
tin shacks, long-weathered, falling down wood-framed houses, 
teaming with half-dressed, barefooted children running around like 
wild animals, and the bleakness of the empty, over-farmed fields of 
the southern states we travelled through. Still being in a state of shock 
from our Army Basic Training, these sights brought more shock and 
awe to our brains, of which many of us had never seen before. 

Arriving at Fort Polk, as the bus turned off the highway, the 
drive through the woods, with the giant pine trees lining both sides 
of the entrance road, looked very foreboding to all of us. That was 
just a sign of what was to come during the following nine weeks. 
The bus drove through the front gate of Fort Polk, guarded by armed 
military police, and we were taken to our new company area. Just 
like when we got off the bus at Fort Campbell for Basic, the drill 
sergeants, all of them large and imposing men, dressed in their 
starched green fatigues with pressed sharp creases and boots that 
shined like glass, were screaming and taunting us from the high 
heavens straight into the mouth of Hell. 

As we scrambled off the busses, the DIs were screaming, "Fall 
in on the lines right now, you fungus-faced trainees. Shut the fuck 
up, stand at attention and count off," and we all counted off at the top 
of our lungs one right after the other, scared shitless. "Don't look at 
me. Are you eyeballing me, you goat fucker? I'll rip out your 
eyeballs and skull fuck you until your brains bleed. Where do you 
think you're at piss head, back on the block at home? You're in Tiger 
Land now. We own you, and your life will never be the same again as 
you knew it. You all look like afterbirth from a fucking hyena you 
low-life pus bags. Drop and give me fifty!" 

"Get your face down in the dirt shitbirds. Keep those backs 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 37 



straight. All the way down to the dirt you poor excuses for human 
beings. Kiss that ground and holler out in cadence count. What's 
wrong with you scum bags, can't you fucking count? You ain't fucking 
soldiers. You're nothing but dick-headed asshole trainees and unfit 
to be soldiers until we say different, you wretched retards. Now get 
up and stand at attention." Holy shit, were we up shit's creek without 
paddles, and this was just the first ten minutes since we got off the 
bus hauling our duffle bags over our shoulders. We knew right from 
the start we were in for a long and arduous nine weeks of Army 
infantry training. Fuck us! 

As we were standing at attention, there were a hundred and 
thirty trainees now in our particular training company, the Top Dog, 
First Sergeant, strolled up to the formation. He was a giant of a man, 
six foot six at least, and he had to be pushing two hundred and sixty 
pounds easy. He was a very dark-skinned, African American. He 
looked very imposing to us that we all were shaking in our boots. He 
was dressed in his beige khakis with all his awards and decorations. 
He was wearing Silver Stars, Bronze Stars, Purple Hearts, Army 
Commendations, a polished Combat Infantry Badge, and Airborne 
Wings pinned on the left side of his chest with his Vietnam Combat 
Division patch on his right shoulder and his Fort Polk Army Division 
patch on his left shoulder, gold drill instructor pin on his left pocket, 
the blue infantry designation braided rope over his shoulder, and his 
gigantic wide-brimmed drill instructor hat on the top of his shaved 
head. His Airborne jump boots were shining like a mirror, his pants 
had a crease in them that could cut you to the bone, and the rack of 
gold first sergeant stripes on his arms stood out like a light house 
beacon burning holes in our eyes. That was one hard-core Army lifer 
from top to bottom. 

He then casually said to us, 'T am the First Sergeant of this 
outfit and none of you are soldiers. You are only scum-sucking, 
scum-bag trainees and you will do as I say, when I say it, 
immediately the moment I say it, and follow every order any drill 
instructor gives you at any time. No questions, no hesitation, not one 
fucking word. Just do it. You will only talk when told to talk, and 
only respond to myself or any other DI with the loudest voice you 
have, and answer only with, 'Sir, yes sir. Drill Sergeant, sir.' 



38 Bud Monaco 



No fucking exceptions. UnderstoodT And we all screamed out in 
unison at the top of our lungs, "Sir, yes sir. Drill Sergeant, sir." He 
then screamed back at us in a booming loud voice that could be heard 
across the Louisiana bayou, through the swamp, all the way to the 
Gulf of Mexico, "What was that you low-life fucking sleaze bags? 
I can't hear you," and we all screamed out again louder than the first 
time, "Sir, yes sir, Drill Sergeant, sir!" He then said, "I will be in 
total and absolute control of your miserable lives for the next nine 
weeks and attempt to make soldiers out of all you sorry ass slime 
bags. Every moment of your waking day, and even while you are 
sleeping, which there won't be a lot of that going on around here, 
I will own your rag-tag fucking asses until the day you leave here. Is 
that UnderstoodT And we all screamed out again, "Sir, yes sir, 
Drill Sergeant, sir." 

He then said to us, "I've been called many things, and I am 
everything that you Mickey Mouse meatheads could ever think of. 
I've also been called a racist of skin color, nationality, religion, and 
all the rest. But let me tell all of you fucks this right now. I am not a 
racist of skin color, nationality, or religion. I hate all of you rotten 
fucks equally and totally. You are all nothing but pieces of shit to me 
until those of you who succeed in my AIT training at the end of these 
upcoming nine weeks become soldiers. Then, and only then, will 
I call you soldiers. But until then, you are nothing but a bunch of 
fucking no-good trainees, niggers, white trash, crackers, hillbillies, 
slopes, chinks, spicks, wetbacks, polacks, dagos, irish micks, kraut 
bastards, immigrant lugans, frog fucks, city jackoffs, shoeless 
country morons, natural-born assholes, and all the rest of whatever 
your low-life civilian designations were. There ain't one of you that 
could pour piss out of a boot, even if there were instructions on the 
heel. You trainees in the front row are the arm pits of this man's 
Army. You trainees in the back row are the assholes of this man's 
Army. Is that understoodT And once again we all screamed out, 
"Sir, yes sir, Drill Sergeant, sir." "OK," he screamed back at us, "Now 
drop and give me fifty, you bunch of numb nuts!" 

As he continued with his rant, he then asked us, "Who of you 
dip-shits are from a big city?" Those of us from big cities raised our 
hands. He then said, "Take one step forward." Those of us from a big 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 39 



city step forward. So he goes down the Hne, and asked which big city 
each trainee who stepped forward was from, and each trainee told 
him they were from Cincinnati, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Miami, 
Detroit, New York, St. Louis, Memphis, Atlanta, Cleveland, Pittsburg, 
and Chicago. 

As he was going down the line, he also asked other trainees 
where they were from, and what their names were. The trainees 
sounded off, "Fm from Los Angeles," the IstSGT said, "Land of 
fruit and nuts." The next guy said, "Fm from Mississippi," the IstSGT 
said, "Stump jumper." The next guy said, "Fm from West Virginia," 
the IstSGT said, "Ridge runner." The next guy said, "Fm from 
Nebraska," the IstSGT said, "Pig-shit kicker." The next guy said, 
"Fm from Kentucky," the IstSGT said, "Hayseed." The next guy 
said, "Fm from New York," the IstSGT said, "Big Apple asshole." 
The next guy said, "Fm from Detroit," the IstSGT said, "Wise-ass- 
city-slicker." The next guy said, "Fm from Alabama," the IstSGT 
said, "White trash." The IstSGT also asked some guys, "What's your 
name?" The next guy said, "McDermott," the IstSGT said, "Irish 
bog trotter." The next guy said, "Jansinski," the IstSGT said, "Dumb 
pollack bohunk." The next guy said, "Sopranonelli," the IstSGT said, 
"Grease ball dago." The next guy said, "Horavitz," the IstSGT said, 
"Sheenie jew kike." The next guy said, "Martinez," the IstSGT said, 
"Wet back mex." Then, he's standing in front of an Asian guy and 
said, "Well, well, well. What do we have here? What's your name?" 
The guy said, "Antonio Kamahachi, Drill Sergeant, sir." The IstSGT 
said, "What the fuck kind of name is that? Are you a chink, jap, 
slope, dink, gook, or a flip? The guy said, "I'm an American. My dad 
was from Asia, and my ma was from Italy." The IstSGT then said, 
"Well that's a first for me. I never had a fucking gook-dago trainee." 
He asked the next guy, "Where are you from? The guy said, "Fm 
from Minnesota." The IstSGT said, "A goddamned fucking 
lumberjack! What a fucking loser." We all found his lexicon of 
derogatory remarks very amusing, but no one was laughing. 

Now he said, "The only peckerheads I hate worse than 
trainees or screwballs from any big cities are scum-bag rat fucks off 
the block from Chicago. I hate the living fuck out of anyone from 
Chicago, and if your worthless lives were going to be fucked up for 



40 Bud Monaco 



the next nine weeks, those of you from Chicago, your lives are going 
to be even more fucked up than you could ever imagine. I'm gonna 
make you run longer, do more push-ups, have more KP, and less 
sleep than any other trainees in this whole fucking Army post. I am 
gonna make your lives one miserable hell for the next nine weeks 
that you'll be remembering for the rest of your useless fucking lives. 
I can't stand the sight of anyone from Chicago. You are the worst 
pieces of shit on this planet. Do you understand me, you piss heads?" 
And those of us from Chicago screamed out, "Sir, yes sir. Drill 
Sergeant, sir." He then said, "That's real good that you maggot fucks 
understand me, now drop and give me fifty." Damn, did that guy 
have a hard-on for guys from Chicago. As we were doing our fifty, 
some of the rest of the trainees were giggling, and he screamed out, 
"Wipe those shit-eating grins off your silly faces. You limp dick sludge 
balls think this is funny? All of you rat bastard muscle heads drop 
and give me fifty." 

As the IstSGT continued to berate us in formation, he then 
casually said to us, "I want you all to look to the man on the right of 
you," and we all did. "Now I want you all to look at the man to the 
left of you," and we all did. "Now look back here at me," and we all 
did. "Now that you have seen the man next to you on both sides, 
I want you all to remember that one of the men you have just looked 
at, or yourselves, will be killed or wounded in Vietnam. The only 
way that will change is if you listen and learn every goddamned thing 
that we will teach you here in AIT to become a proficient soldier, and 
maybe, just maybe, one out of three of you will not be killed or 
wounded." This statement surely brought some heavy somber 
thoughts into all of our already frazzled minds of what our future 
would be once we made it out of AIT. 

The mental beat down went on for a while longer, and finally 
the IstSGT turned the company over to the DI platoon sergeants, and 
they directed us to our barracks. Thinking now, we could finally take 
a break and lay down on our assigned bunks, dropping our duffle 
bags by our assigned bunks, we all laid down, or actually /<?// down 
from exhaustion. Not the case at all. Not a Chinaman's or a snowball's 
chance in hell. Storming into the barracks came our assigned drill 
sergeants, four of them, and they started screaming at us, "What the 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 41 



fuck are you jagoffs doing lying down on your racks? No one gave 
you orders to lie down for a blanket drill. Every last one of you 
swinging dicks get the fuck out of those bunks, out of these barracks, 
and outside into formation right fucking now, on the double." 

We all went barreling ass outside like shit through a tin horn, 
and into formation. The DIs continued screaming at us, "No one ever 
lies down unless we give you a direct order to do so. So now all of 
you dip sticks drop and give us fifty." Goddamned, here we go again. 

Now formed up outside in the company area, we ran to the 
Supply building for our soldiering gear, consisting of web gear, 
pistol belt, steel pot helmet, helmet liner, ammo pouches, gas mask, 
medical bandage pouch, canteen, mess kit, back pack, poncho, 
bayonet scabbard, bedding of two sheets, one pillow, one pillow case, 
laundry bag, and of course, one genuine, beat-to-shit, scratchy-ass, 
wool Army blanket. We then marched back, actually there was no 
marching, just like in Basic, we ran back to the company area where 
we were allowed to go back into the barracks, make our bunks, and 
store our gear in our lockers and foot lockers. We were told in no 
fewer words by the DIs, "No one is to ever lay down, take a piss, take 
a shit, talk, or even breathe, unless we give you a direct order 
to do so." So there was no lying down by any of us trainees for 
many hours to come. 

By that time, we had been in transit from Fort Campbell since 
early morning before first light. It had to be about twelve hours later, 
late afternoon, early evening by then. We didn't know what time it 
was. They had taken any watches from all of us at the start of Basic 
Training, and the only way you knew what time of day it was, was 
because of the sun shining, or the darkness of night. Then the DIs 
returned to the barracks bay and started screaming at us again to get 
our asses back outside and into formation. We were finally marched, 
actually, again, we ran to the mess hall, so we could finally have 
something to eat, as we had not eaten in who knows how long. 

There was no walking anywhere. If you went from point A to 
point B, even if it was ten feet, you ran, or you would be back on the 
ground giving them fifty. Figuring we would finally get to sit down 
for a few minutes to eat and relax, we were all, once again, totally 
incorrect in our thinking. We were rushed into the mess hall, by the 



42 Bud Monaco 



numbers, assholes to elbows, five at a time, rushed through the chow 
line, with the cooks also screaming at us, slopping food on our trays 
like you see in the old prison movies, rushed over to tables, with the 
DIs screaming at us to hurry up and eat, wolfed the food down, and 
then rushed back outside, all in less than ten minute's time. Couldn't 
have taken more than thirty minutes for them to feed over a hundred 
of us trainees and have us back in formation running to our barracks. 
As we stood in formation, one of the DIs said to us, "Did you 
all enjoy your dinner?" We all screamed out, "Sir, yes sir. 
Drill Sergeant, sir." He then said, "Just so none of you pricks get fat 
on us, drop and give me fifty." Goddamned, fuck us again, as this 
drop and give me fifty routine became the norm every fifteen 
minutes, no matter what we were doing. 

Finally, the DIs told us we could store our gear properly, and 
then, and only then, could we take showers, take a piss, or take a shit. 
The DIs came back into the barracks and told us that we have five 
minutes until lights out, but then they assigned fire guard duty to all 
of us, so no one was going to get much sleep anyway. 

Fire guard duty was that one trainee would be awake at all times 
and walking around the barracks building with a flashlight watching 
for fires for half-hour shifts. Then he would go to the next bunk and 
wake up the next guy to take his place. And god forbid that any fire 
guard got caught sleeping on the job. That would be a Court-Martial 
offense, or so we were told. It went on every night, all night long. 
We all knew about fire guard duty, as we did the same duty during 
Basic Training. It sucked. 

Then there was kitchen patrol duty (KP) we also all had to 
contend with. What a ball-busting nightmare KP was on top of 
everything else. KP duty was assigned alphabetically and it also was 
punishment duty for anyone who fucked up in the slightest degree. 
The fire guard would come and wake up whoever had KP at 3:00 
a.m., and you had to run to the mess hall and work your ass off 
washing dishes, trays, pots and pans, cleaning tables, mopping floors, 
emptying trash cans, and peeling potatoes just like in the old Army 
movies. It was endless. You never stopped. The dirty trays, pots and 
pans just kept coming and would get stacked so high you couldn't 
imagine you would ever finish them all. Now remember, it was the 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 43 



dog days of August, it's a hundred degrees air temperature 
twenty-four hours a day in Louisiana, and you just thought you were 
going to die from heat exhaustion. You were tired, sweat-soaked from 
head to toe, and filthy Hke a pig in a barnyard. After KP duty you had 
to go back to your company, and continue training with running and 
everything else. No quarter at no time, ever, for any trainee. Damn, 
and we still had more than eight weeks to go. Fuck us. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 45 



Chapter 10 



''So You Thought You Knew What Hell Is. 

You Were Wrong. 

This Is Hell. 

Becoming A Soldier Is Hell. 

Becoming A Soldier Is Brutally Harder Than Hell.'' 

The following day, actually, it was 5:00 a.m. in the morning, the 
DIs busted into the barracks, and they were banging garbage 
can covers together like cymbals and screaming like motherfuckers 
at us to get up, get out of those racks, and be outside in formation in 
fifteen minutes. We had fifteen minutes to make our bunks, shit, 
shower, shave, get dressed, and be outside in formation. From the 
first formation of the day, after roll call and reveille, it was time to 
run again. We ran, and ran, and ran, in step, in cadence, until trainees 
started to drop out fainting and puking, or overall breaking down 
physically. It still brought no quarter. They threw some water on you 
and screamed at the fallen, "You mama's boy pussy," until they got 
up and continued running to the exercise field for more PT training. 
Push-ups, squats, leg lifts, and all the rest of the daily dozen official 
Army calisthenics, along with hand to hand combat and pugil stick 
training, kicking our sorry asses into the brown, dusty, red dirt of 
Fort Polk's PT fields. Only then, did we run again back to 
the company area and form up to run to the mess hall for 
breakfast by the numbers. 

Then after breakfast, guess whatl Form up and run some more 
to the Armory building to be issued our M-16 rifles and bayonets. 
We had trained with M-14 rifles during Basic Training, and now we 
had to again memorize each of our individual weapon's serial 
numbers, learn all over again how to dissemble, clean, and reassemble 
our now, newly issued, M-16s. Goddamned, it never stopped. 

Having been issued our M-16 rifles and bayonets, just like in 
Basic, before we headed off to the rifle range, we had to learn over 
again how to use the Army bayonet that we were issued with our 
rifles. The bayonet course was no walk in the sun. We were taught 
how to attach the bayonet to our rifles, which was a pretty simple 
operation, but it had to be done by the numbers. Once we had that 
figured out, the actual bayonet training started. 



46 Bud Monaco 



Just like in Basic, the bayonet course was a big field with large 
wooden frames and with big long burlap bags filled with straw that 
were the size of a man hanging from them. There were a dozen rows 
of bags, with a dozen of them in each row, laid out across the field 
about five yards between rows. We would line up across the 
beginning of the course, a dozen trainees to a line, one line of 
trainees after the other. When the command was given, each line of 
trainees would run up to the first row of bags, stabbing, slashing, and 
jabbing at the bags with our bayonets attached to our rifles. There 
was a system of stabbing, slashing, and jabbing, and if you didn't do 
it correctly, it was, "Fall out. Drop and give me fifty." 

The DIs instructed us to scream out, "Yaaaa, Yaaaa, Yeeehaaa," 
as we ran forward to the bag in front of us. At each line of bags, one 
of the DIs standing there would scream at us, "What is the spirit of 
the bayonet fighter?" Our response was, "The spirit of the bayonet 
fighter is to kill. Drill Sergeant, to kill!" We would do this to our 
hanging bags, screaming and yelling the whole time, then running 
forward to the next line of bags, and do it again. That routine went on 
for hours, while the blazing sun beat down on us, taking the starch 
right out of our already beat to shit fatigues, leaving us completely 
sweat soaked and exhausted. 

Like I said, it was no walk in the sun. Bayonet training was 
done at least once a week, and after the first two weeks, we all 
became pretty proficient in the use of the bayonet to kill or dispatch 
any enemy quickly and effectively. 

Now that we were issued our M-16s after our first training on 
the bayonet course, we were off to the rifle range to learn how to 
shoot and operate it properly with live ammo. As in Basic, we were 
herded into long, open-air cattle trucks, which could hold fifty or 
sixty ivsLinccs Jammed into the bed of the trucks, and taken out to the 
rifle range. The rifle range is very serious business, and every single 
move that was made by the trainees, the DIs, or the rifle range 
instructors, was done exactly by the book and by the numbers. No 
exceptions. They sure didn't want anyone accidently shooting any 
other trainee, DI or instructor. Every move that was made by the 
trainees was only done by a direct command. Any trainee that fucked 
up in the slightest would receive the full wrath of the DIs or the 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 47 



instructors. So everyone paid real close attention to all the 
instructions for the next five hours. 

The rifle range system began when twenty trainees would line 
up behind the firing line with their M-16s at the ready and a 
command was given to move forward to the ammo boxes with the 
live ammo. You then loaded eighteen rounds of 7.62, full metal jacket 
ammo, into your rifle magazine. The command was given to move 
forward to the firing positions, and the next command was to load 
your magazine into the weapon. Then, and only then, the next 
command was to, ''Lock and load/' a live round into the rifle 
chamber, keeping your weapon pointed down range at all times. The 
commands by the rifle range instructors of, "Ready on the right. Ready 
on the left," and, 'The firing line is ready," were shouted out. Then, 
and only then, the final command of, ''Commence firing/' was given. 
And man o' man, was that a gas of a time, as we finally were able to 
fire our weapons with live ammo. 

After each trainee fired off, one at a time, all eighteen rounds of 
ammo, the instructors gave the command to, "Cease fire and clear all 
weapons." Before any trainee left the firing line, a DI or instructor 
would have to check your weapon to be sure there was no live ammo 
in the chamber or in the magazine. Only then, would you be able to 
leave the firing line and take your place at the back of the lines of 
trainees waiting to approach the firing line. Line after line of trainees 
went through the procedure, and your line would eventually be 
in front again to take position on the firing line, and repeat the 
live fire procedure. 

Although there were paper targets down range for us to shoot 
at, not until we had fired our weapons two or three times from the 
firing line, were we able to, "Cease fire and clear all weapons," and 
walk down range to see if we had hit the targets. The trips to the rifle 
range went on at least three times a week, and ironically, while at the 
range, the DIs and instructors were not totally screaming at us and 
were somewhat cordial, but not much, about the whole process. 
I guess they didn't want to have us freaking out with them screaming 
at us with live ammo in our weapons, and accidently shooting 
ourselves, or blowing one of them away. 

During our AIT at Fort Polk, every trainee's military 



48 Bud Monaco 



occupation specialty (MOS) designation was IIB, combat infantry 
soldier. During AIT, some trainees would learn another individual 
MOS, such as mortar men, truck drivers, cooks, artillery, office 
personnel, etc. Only a few selected trainees, the lucky ones, would 
get to move on to be truck drivers, cooks, etc. The other MOS most 
of us would be secondarily designated was 1 IC, .81mm indirect fire 
crew mortar men. So quite a few of the trainees, myself included, 
had to now learn a whole new MOS to become a proficient mortar 
squad man, as well as continuing to learn our infantry skills. So here 
we go again. Form up, run to the next classroom for mortar 
instructions, which included films, training aids, and familiarization 
with the .81mm mortar. 

It included learning how the gun sight was operated, setting up 
and transporting the barrel, tri-pod, and base plate. The base plate 
was a real bitch, and usually the guy who fucked up the most was 
assigned to carry the ass-busting heavy base plate. Then back into 
the cattle trucks and out to the live fire mortar range to learn how to 
actually set up, operate, prepare the live mortar rounds, and fire live 
mortar rounds down range. Actually it was pretty cool to be able to 
fire live .81mm mortars. Of course, there was a complete, by the 
book, by the numbers. Army system, just like at the rifle range, 
before any live rounds were fired. 

I still vividly remember the first time we got to fire the mortars, 
and it was a real trip for sure. There would be three trainees on the 
gun, with an instructor acting as gun crew chief giving out 
commands. One was the gun sight operator, one was the gunner, and 
one was the ammo bearer. With live mortar rounds taken out of the 
ammo boxes, prepared for firing, and stacked neatly near the gun, 
the instructor would give the command for the ammo bearer to pick 
up a live round, hand it to the gunner, with the gun sight operator 
sighting the gun by looking through the gun sight, which was 
attached to the tri-pod. The instructor would shout out, ''Hang one 
round,'' and the gunner would place the round into the top of the 
mortar tube without letting it drop into the tube, and shout back at 
the instructor, ''Hanging one round,'' and then the instructor would 
shout out, "Fire," and the gunner would let the live round drop into 
the tube with a sweeping hand motion, duck down, cover his ears 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 49 



with both hands, and a spHt-second later, the round would explode 
out of the tube, head down range, and blow up with a big explosion. 
"Bam! Boom!" It was a real blast for sure to hear those mortar rounds 
exploding out of the tubes and then exploding down range. The 
process would be repeated three or four times, and then each trainee 
would take up a different gun crew position so each trainee would 
learn how to operate all the positions of a 81mm gun crew. 

The following day we were taken to the hand grenade course to 
learn how to handle a live hand grenade. This training was done 
similarly to the rifle range system, by the numbers and exactly by the 
book, as it was pretty dangerous for trainees to be handling live hand 
grenades. There was a practice session using dummy grenades that 
we all went through, pulling the pin and throwing the dummy 
grenade down range, prior to throwing a live grenade. 

And sure as shit, some shit-for-brains mutton head got 
nervous and dropped his dummy grenade on the ground after pulling 
the pin, right between him and the instructor. The instructor had a 
shit fit and proceeded to rake him over the coals screaming at him 
with a tirade of raging insults. "Are you dead from the neck up? Do 
you have a case of the dumbass? Are you soft in the head? Are you 
playing with a full deck you zipper head? You do not have the 
foggiest idea of what's going on, you fucking mush head. You must 
have been passed by when life was handing out luck. Where were 
you when god was handing out brains?" If the instructor was trying 
to get our attention to keep us focused with this maniacal tirade, his 
tirade surely did the trick. No one dropped another hand grenade, 
dummy or live, during the rest of the day. 

We all lined up as we did at the rifle range, but only three at a 
time were we given the order to approach the ammo boxes with the 
grenades in them, with an instructor standing there. He would 
instruct us to pick up one grenade, move forward with the grenade in 
each of our hands to each of the three concrete bunkers and crouch 
down. He would then instruct us to, ''Pull the pin, stand up, and 
throw," the grenade down range. The instructors and the trainees would 
then hit the dirt and wait to hear the explosion before any further 
moves were done. "Boom! Boom!" The grenades went off for the 
next three hours. There was nothing like hearing that explosion time 



50 Bud Monaco 



and time again. Kinda fun, but not really funny at all. 

That was our sorry ass lives day after day, night after night, as 
the days and weeks dragged on during the nine weeks of AIT at Fort 
Polk. There were also the daily inspections, ten mile force marches 
with full back pack and weapon, the night or day navigation courses, 
the ass-busting obstacle course, the low-crawl under barbed wire 
training, on your belly, crawling through the dirt and mud for thirty 
yards, the pull-up bars, the horizontal ladders, the mile long run that 
everyone had to do in under ten minutes in order to pass the test. 
There was a lot of classroom stuff, and training films going on all the 
time in between the physical training as well. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 51 

Chapter 11 

''Weakness Is Not Allowed In The Army. 

There Is No Running Away From It. 

You Must Fight It Out To Prevail. 

Or You Will Perish." 

The gas chamber training was a real mother fucker. We had to 
enter a brick building with our gas masks on to prove to us that 
the gas mask actually worked, and then once inside, after a minute or 
so, we had to take the gas masks off, and breath in the CS gas that 
was burning inside the building. If you have never been gassed, this 
is something you never want to experience. The CS gas bums your 
skin, your eyes, and causes your mouth, nose, and throat to gag and 
bum. Your stomach burns, turns over, and you puke your guts up 
when the DIs finally let you run outside of the gas chamber. You 
think you are just gonna fucking die. And, there is no antidote for the 
gas. If you put water on your face, it burns more. If you rub your 
eyes, it only makes it worse. The only choice you have is for the gas 
to dissipate over a short period of time, and you keep gagging up 
puke with snot flying out of your nose and throat, which seems like 
hours. Even then, you can still feel the gas burning in your throat. 
You can still smell and taste the gas days later. That training exercise 
was totally fucked for everyone. 

And then there was the big finish. The dreaded, escape and 
evasion course during the last week of AIT, which would be the most 
major fucking-over that topped every other ass-busting, mind-fucking 
thing that we had to go through during the nine weeks of absolutely 
beyond hell training experiences. This E & E shit was unbehevable. 
If you thought you had been through the worst shit of your life 
during Basic and the past eight weeks of AIT, the escape and evasion 
course topped it all by miles. I was never the same after it. 
None of us were. 

There were some other nuances, like being able to go to the 
Post Exchange (PX) for cigarettes, soap, and other personal items 
you needed. Plus, there were plenty of other nuances going on all the 
time with barracks life. Latrine and barracks cleaning details and 
many more that really don't have to be expounded on or about. At 



52 Bud Monaco 



the PX, you could get a can of soda and a bag of potato chips. The 
soda and chips were Uke manna from heaven as we never had any of 
those treats while in training. We would also be able to play the juke 
box, listening to any new music and dancing around like a bunch of 
silly sons of bitches. We also were able, maybe twice, to get an 
overnight pass to leave the Fort, and go into the hick town right 
outside the Fort's main gate a couple miles away, which was Leesburg, 
LA. It was a jerkwater, one horse, podunk town with one main street 
full of bars and honky tonks, brimming with trainees and soldiers 
just looking to get fucked up on booze, and maybe get laid if they 
had any money to pay a hooker. 

It was during one of the times we were at the PX that we first 
learned about the escape and evasion course. Some of the trainees 
that were ahead of our training battalion had already gone through 
the course, and they warned us, in no uncertain words, not to get 
caught during the evasion segment, and get sent to the simulated 
Viet Cong prisoner of war (POW) camp. They told us of the 
nightmare and the world of shit we would be in if we wound up in 
the POW camp. Fuck us. Just what we needed to hear. Every horror 
story they told us about the E & E course was goddamned absolutely 
dead nuts on, and even worse. 

^ ' So it began. The escape and 

evasion course training day arrived in 
week nine of AIT. Those of us who 
wound up in the POW camp would never 
forget that fateful day and subsequent 
night for the rest of our lives. As 
mentioned before, the IstSGT DI still 
hated everyone, especially those of us 
from Chicago, and generally speaking, 
anyone from any other big city. That prick IstSGT would get his 
final licks in on us and cause some of us to suffer the most grief of 
our nine weeks in AIT, making it the worst time of our lives, before 
we would be out from under his demented control. 




DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 53 



Chapter 12 




''A Man Can Be Instructed To Learn Without Brutality. 

But Then There Are Some Men Who Need To Be Brutalized. 

Army Training Is Brutal. 

But That Still Don 't Make It Right.'' 

That early morning before first Hght, all the trainees were formed 
up in the company area, and after reveille, our daily two mile 
run, PT, and breakfast, we were once again herded into the cattle 

trucks and taken to the escape and 
evasion course. The training area was 
deep in the monster-sized pine tree, 
brush-filled, wet, scum-brown dirt, 
bugs-as-big-as-your-fist infested, 
uninhabited by human life woods. It 
was asshole deep in alligator swamps 
with the temperature well into the 
high nineties and humidity near a 
hundred percent in the northern 
wastelands of Lousy-anna for round one of the E & E course. 

During the first part of the morning, we were located in 
outdoor classrooms, which consisted of racks of metal bleachers, 
like at a high school football stadium, out in the blazing sun. The 
instructors had a portable trailer, having one side that fully swung 
open, making a stage with a podium for the instructors to work out 
of There were also two regular side doors on either end of the trailer 
and a small door that went out to the rear of the trailer behind the 
podium. Those doors didn't really go anywhere except out into the 
woods, which was where the E & E course was located, covering 
probably three or four miles or more in any direction, until there was 
a road that ran through the Fort complex. 

The instructors went over the schedule of the course events 
and the first part of the course was put into action. We had to use a 
compass and do some land navigation training for the next few hours, 
stomping around in the forest. For the second part of the course, we 
then were herded back into the outdoor classroom area and instructed 
to break down and clean our M-16s. Sometime after that, we were 



54 Bud Monaco 



issued our boxes of the Army's quite infamous, C-Rations, 
un-affectionately called C-rats, or Charlies, for our lunch meal. 
Oh boy, what a treat that was. 

For the third part of the course, after lunch, we were instructed 
on numerous survival methods while sitting in the ass-burning, hot 
like a motherfucker, steel bleachers, which included camouflage 
instructions, how to start a fire with no matches, how to boil swamp 
water so it would be fit to drink, how to cook a chicken in an 
underground stone cooking hole, and some more land navigation with 
further compass training. All of that training took up most of the 
rest of the daylight. 

For the fourth part of the course, we were broken up into 
five-man squads, and each squad was given a fucking live chicken 
that we would learn how to kill, clean, cook, and eat, with nothing 
but our bayonets, and a magnesium spark stick, which each squad 
was issued. When we first heard we were going to have chicken to 
eat, we thought we were gonna get Army chicken, which was really 
beans and frankfurters, irreverently called beans and motherfuckers 
in Army jargon. 

We proceeded to collect some rocks from the surrounding woods, 
dig a small hole in the ground, fill the bottom of the hole with the 
rocks, and cover the rocks with branches and shrub brush to start the 
fire, using the magnesium spark stick by chipping at it with the blade 
of a bayonet. When the fire got started and burned hot to make the 
bottom rocks hot enough to cook on, you would put some more wood 
on the fire and then cover enough of it with more rocks, so not to put 
the fire out. Yeah, right. That worked real well, as it had started to 
rain with the ground being wet to begin with, and the fire did nothing 
but smolder and smoke with hardly any flame. 

Then we had to kill, clean and prepare the goddamned chicken. 
Oh, that was just a fucking wonderful experience. One of the 
instructors showed us how to snap the neck off the live bird, then 
soak it with some water from our canteens, and then pluck the 
feathers off of the bird. Only a few trainees could bring themselves 
to ripping the chicken's head off, and then the instructors, or some 
farm boys who had done it before, did the chicken head ripping-off 
thing. It was a very grizzly thing to try to do for sure. Then you 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 55 



would cut the bird open under its breast, and strip out the guts, 
followed by dismembering the bird piece-by-piece, putting the pieces 
on top of the lower heated rocks, and covering it with the rest of the 
heated rocks, with some more wood burning on top. 

The bird was supposed to cook in about a half hour, but with the 
wet ground and the rain, there wasn't really any flame, and the fire 
never got hot enough to actually heat the rocks or cook the bird. Our 
dinner time was now up, so we had to eat the meat literally raw, if we 
wanted to have any food to eat for the rest of the night. Fuck us 
again. Most of us just went hungry and said, "Fuck it." What a 
cluster fuck across the board that all turned out to be. 

For the fifth and final part of the course, we were again herded 
back into the bleachers, and the instructors told us what we would 
try to accomplish to finish the course. Let me tell you, some of us 
still had a long way to go before that night would end. 

We would be released, twenty trainees at a time, and we would 
run into the woods behind the stage area and continue to run like 
motherfuckers until we came to the first road on the other side of the 
woods, where there would be trucks to take us back to our company 
area. Surprise! They now tell us that there are aggressor forces out in 
the woods that would be trying to capture us, and if they did capture 
anyone, you would then become a prisoner of war, and be sent to the 
POW compound, which was everyone's worst fear. And those 
aggressor force guys out there were regular Army soldiers having to 
do a shit detail with the trainees, and just loved to fuck over trainees 
in any way they saw fit, as they were pissed off that they had to do 
this shit detail out in the woods, chasing trainees down in the first 
place. They were not pleasant to deal with in the least bit. 

But before the instructors started to count us off twenty at a 
time for us to start busting ass through the forest, guess who stepped 
up to the stage? Yeah, right, the rat bastard 1 stSGT DI. He then started 
calling out the names of, first, all the Chicago guys, which numbered 
about six of us, then about another half-dozen of the other guys from 
the big cities. We fell out of the bleachers, were told to lie down on 
the stage, and that we were now POWs. We were not even gonna get 
a chance to do our evasion routine through the woods. Holy Hell, did 
we get the royal fucking right from the start. That prick was gonna 



56 Bud Monaco 



fuck us big city trainees right to the complete end. What a 
fucking jagoff he was. 

So there we were, lying down on the stage, holding our hands 
behind our backs, our faces smashed into the floor of the stage, and 
the other trainees are being cut loose in their groups of twenty, 
busting ass into the woods running like hell. I looked to the right of 
me, and there was Sebo, a guy from Chicago who I had become 
good friends with, and I said to him, "Let's get the other guys to 
follow us, all of us jump up at one time, just bolt out that back door, 
and they can't keep all of us from escaping," as there were only a 
half-dozen instructors and DIs in the immediate area. None of those 
other prom trotters had a brain between them, except Sebo and I, 
which we learned weeks ago, that most of the trainees were actually 
dumb-ass space cadets with shit for brains from the get go, just like 
the DIs had been saying all along. So Sebo and I started telling the 
others what we planned to do, and about half of them were scared 
shitless, sucking hind tit, and didn't want anything to do with our 
plan of trying to escape for fear of reprisal. I said to those fucks, 
"What worse reprisal shit can they put on us? We are already POWs 
you needle dicks, and we are already in a real bad total world of shit 
as POWs. This is why it's called the escape and evasion course you 
dumb fucks. We're supposed to try to escape and evade. This is what 
it is all about, goddamn it!" 

Now we had about six of us who agreed to make a break for it 
and try to escape. When I saw that the coast was clear, I said, "Let's 
go now," but only the six of us jumped up, busted a move out of the 
back door, and started winging it, running like bats out of Hell into 
the woods. The instructors and DIs started screaming at us to stop, 
but we screamed back at them, "Fuck you, come and catch us," and 
continued running with some of them chasing us into the woods. 

So everyone who escaped was now separated, tearing ass through 
the woods on their own, and I'm running through the trees and bush 
with one of the instructors right on my ass behind me, 
almost close enough to grab me, and I sharply cut a rug like a 
motherfucker through two small trees. As he tried to follow me, 
running through the same small space between the two trees, he 
smashed his shoulder into one of the trees, and went down hard. He's 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 57 



screaming at me, "I'll get you for this you trainee cock sucker. 
You ain't out of the woods yet." 

Now there were two other instructors taking up the chase with a 
flanking movement, coming at me from my right side. I was still 
running as fast as I could, but I caught my feet in some low-lying, 
under-the-bush vines, tripped, and went flying through the air 
ass-over-teakettle, landing on an unseen, small tree stump, right in 
the center of my chest, knocking the wind completely out of me. 
I was down for the count. Then both of those two fucks jumped on 
me, driving my chest further into the tree stump, and the first 
instructor had by now recovered, and he also jumped on my skinny, 
five foot, seven inch, hundred and nineteen pound ass, driving me 
further into the tree stump. So I was practically out cold, couldn't 
breathe, couldn't see, bleeding from my mouth and nose, and they 
were beating on me like a rented mule, slapping me around, kicking 
at me, and screaming at me right in my face, "We are gonna really 
fuck you up when we get you to the POW compound." I thought all 
the training, hazing, and mental anguish of Basic Training and AIT 
I had over the past seventeen weeks was bad, but I had no idea of just 
how bad bad could be. To my regret, I found out a short time later 
that night what bad-bad really was, involving combat war training. 

They dragged me back to the stage area, as I couldn't even walk 
on my own at that time, tied my hands behind my back, put a sand 
bag over my head, and dragged me over to the back of a parked 
deuce and a half truck. They picked me up and threw me bodily into 
the bed of the truck with numerous others, now captured, POW 
trainees. After a while, I don't know how long it was, probably ten, 
maybe twenty minutes later, we all heard the tail gate get slammed 
shut, and the truck started to drive away. I managed to get my hands 
untied, removed the sand bag from my head, and saw that there were 
about a dozen other trainees lying around the bed of the truck with a 
guard sitting on the end of the bed. When he saw me without the 
sand bag over my head, he jumped up, and kicked me in the ribs, 
telling me to put the sand bag back over my head. 

The truck pulled to a stop as they dragged us out of the truck 
bed, removed the sand bags from our heads so they could see who's 
who and check our dog tags to be sure. We could now see the front of 



58 Bud Monaco 



the POW compound, and from what we could see, it had an eight 
foot stockade wood fence all around it with barbed wire all along the 
top of it and a half dozen or so thatched-roof huts spread around the 
inside of the compound. Someone from behind me put a rope around 
my neck, started dragging me in through dirt to the front gate of the 
compound, making me crawl on my hands and knees, screaming at 
me, "Bark like a dog, you Yankee bastard." I didn't do the barking, 
but many of the other POWs were being dragged the same way, 
crawling on their hands and knees, barking like dogs. Shocking. 
Just absolutely shocking ! 

Upon being dragged through the front gate, someone put the 
sand bag back over my head, and I couldn't see anything for the next 
ten minutes or so. I was dragged into a hut and the sand bag was 
removed. And guess who was standing right there inside the hut next 
to my first interrogator? Goddamned fucking right, the jackoff IstSGT 
DI. He said to me, "So you think you're so fucking tough being from 
back on the block in Chicago? Well we'll see just how tough you are 
now, you Chicago piece of shit. Do you miss your mommy? 
Tough shit, trainee." 

If it hadn't already begun, it surely began now, and would be 
the beginning of a tortuous twelve hours that would make me vividly 
and forever aware of what the human spirit and body could endure, 
and of man's inhumanity to man. At that instance, it was like a silver 
bullet was shot into my brain. I totally and completely learned how to 
viciously hate and want to absolutely kill another man with my bare 
hands and teeth. Absolutely goddamned fucking right. Without 
hesitation. My brain had now flowed deep into an abyss of 
primordial mentality, and my heart was taken to a place of darkness. 
I was always a little overboard as a young kid doing dangerous things, 
taking goofy chances, being a little crazy to show off, so I 
could be one of the guys, but now, the abuse put me right 
over the top for crazy. 

Nothing in my nineteen years of life, or over the past seventeen 
weeks of Army training, could have prepared me for what I was to 
endure and be inhumanely subjected to over the following hours in 
that POW compound at the hands of the training cadre and aggressor 
soldiers that were in the same fucking United States Army as I was. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now ! 59 



I kept telling myself, 'This is the fucking U. S. Army. How bad could 
they fuck me over? They can't kill me, right?" 

The first interrogation began in the hut I was dragged into. 
I was pushed into a kneeling position in front of a small table, and 
there were two interrogators standing behind the table. One of them 
said, "What unit are you with?" In previous class room training we 
were taught, if captured and you become a POW, you were to give 
out only your name, rank, and serial number. So I told them my name, 
rank, and serial number, and the interrogator leaned over the table, 
slapped me across the face, and screamed at me, "I asked you what 
unit are you with you piece of shit?" I repeated what I said, and he 
slapped me across the face again. Then they put a sheet of paper in 
front of me and told me to sign it. Taking a quick look at the paper, 
I could see it was a confession of committing war crimes, which 
I refused to sign, and again the interrogator slapped me in the face. It 
went on for around ten to fifteen minutes, and still being somewhat 
fresh of mind, they knew I wasn't going to give up any further 
information, or sign any confession. 

So, with the rope still around my neck, they put the sand bag 
back over my head, dragging me out of that hut, through the dirt on 
my hands and knees, into another hut, continuing to scream at me, 
"Bark like a dog, you piece of shit," which I still wasn't doing, pissing 
them off some more. 

The hut was set up the same way the first hut was set up, except 
in front of the small table on the floor, there was a tree log three feet 
long and four inches thick. I learned later that it was called the 
Japanese Bamboo Knee Log torture technique. I was on my knees in 
front of the table, and the interrogator started asking me the same 
questions as the first one did. I responded the same way, and got 
slapped in the face again numerous times. Now, one of the 
interrogators took the log, and put it behind the pit of my knees, 
while the other one continued asking the same questions again. When 
I refused to answer, the interrogator next to me grabbed me by the 
face and neck, bending me backwards over the log that was behind 
my knees, pushing my body all the way back until the back of my 
head hit the dirt floor. The pain that shot through my knees and legs 
was unbelievable. 



60 Bud Monaco 



I was crying from the pain, screaming out, "You motherfuckers! 
You motherfuckers!," and the one guy who was holding my head in 
the dirt, grabbed my head, slammed me back up into the table face 
first, and the pain immediately subsided. They continued to ask the 
same questions, and when I wouldn't answer them, they bent me 
back over the log again, and now the pain was just fucking killing 
me. A shearing, shooting pain, all around my knees and legs, and 
while I was still down, they were screaming at me to answer the 
questions. The one guy let loose of my head for a moment, and 
I somehow found the instinct to snap back up, jump into the guy 
behind the table, and sock that motherfucker right in the face as hard 
as I could. They both then jumped on me, and started beating the shit 
out of me with their fists screaming at me, "We'll kill you. You little 
motherfucker," and I then heard from behind the table somewhere, 
a voice that yelled out at them, "That's enough!" 

I looked towards the back wall, and there was a small window 
with a man standing there looking through the window. Guess whol 
The goddamned IstSGT again, watching and enjoying every minute 
of it, but knowing that those interrogators were taking it too far. Now 
the two interrogators were totally pissed off that a low-life trainee 
had the balls to sock one of them, and really wanted to put the hurt 
on me, but the IstSGT told them to move me outside. 

As I was laying on the ground outside the hut, someone threw a 
bucket of water in my face, which shocked me out of my almost 
unconscious state, covered my head with the sand bag again, and left 
me laying there for about ten minutes. The IstSGT was now 
standing over me and said, "So you are pretty tough Chicago. Let's 
see how long you last now." And the worst was yet to come. 

All around me there were other POWs being dragged through 
the dirt, barking like dogs, and there were screams and crying going 
on all over the compound. It was like a horror movie, but one that 
I had never seen. At that time, I knew that they couldn't kill me, and 
I was bound and determined to survive and escape this hell hole, 
one way or another. 

Now, someone yanked me to my knees with the rope that was 
still around my neck, dragging me to another location in the 
compound. The sand bag was yanked off of my head, and in front of 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 61 



me were three, four-inch round, six-foot high wooden poles planted 
in the ground. There were three POWs wrapped around the poles, 
screaming and crying endlessly. Myself and two other POWs were 
laying in the dirt watching when they pulled the three guys off the 
poles and dragged them away. Our turn. That, I again learned later, 
was called the Apache Indian Pole torture. 

So they dragged the three of us up to the poles, spreading our 
legs apart, pulling us up to the pole to our balls, taking our legs, and 

wrapping them around the pole by 
pulling one foot up through the other 
leg in a knot like a yoga thing, while 
we were hugging the pole with our 
arms. They now started asking 
questions like, "What's your mother's 
maiden name? Who is your 
commanding officer?" The other two 
guys started screaming out their 
mother's maiden names, and our 
commanding officer's name, but I just 
screamed out my name, rank, and 
serial number. But not for long. 
Now they grabbed me by my head, pulled my arms away from 
the pole, bent me over backwards, jamming the back of my head into 
the dirt, and if the previous log torture caused excruciating pain, that 
Indian Pole torture, with my legs tied in a knot around the pole, was 
ten times worse. Holy fucking shit! That was really rocking me into 
oblivion, with the pain shooting through my knees, legs, hips, and up 
into my lower back. They then grabbed me by the head and propped 
me back up, so I could grab hold of the pole with both my arms, 
which took the pressure off of my knees, again asking the same 
questions. When I wouldn't answer the questions, they bent me 
backwards again, causing more pain. At that point I couldn't take it 
anymore, and I started screaming out my mother's maiden name, 
and the commanding officer's name, crying like a rag sheenie. 

It still wasn't good enough for them, as they raised me up, slammed 
me back down two or three more times, before they finally unknotted 
my legs and left me laying there crying like a fucking baby. 




62 Bud Monaco 



After laying there for a while and trying to recover whatever 
slight bit of dignity or mental thought that I could muster, or had left 
in me, I noticed that the Indian Poles were only about eight feet 
from the stockade fence line. 

Upon further notice, I saw that about a six-foot long section of 
the stockade fence was only about five feet high, cut out between the 
eight-foot sections of the fence. As I was looking it over, I 
realized that it was set up that way to see if any trainees being 
tortured could collect their faculties and try to escape over that short 
section of fence. Realizing that, I sort of tried getting to my feet to 
bust a move to the fence, not knowing that my legs were totally numb 
and useless. As I tried to reach up to grab the top of the fence and 
climb over it, my legs gave out, and I crumpled back into the dirt. 
Nice try but no cigar. 

Now they jumped on me again, and started yanking on the rope 
around my neck, laughing at me, but one of them said, "At least you 
had the balls to see the escape route. You are the only trainee to 
figure it out, but you're still fucked, and we still own you, shit head." 

Without the sand bag over my head this time, they dragged me 
over to another spot in the compound so I could see what was going 
on to put more fear into me. There were a couple of guys already 
there lying on their backs with their hands and feet tied down to the 
ground with buckets of water hanging over their heads. Not fully 
understanding what the torture system was all about that they were 
going through, I was thrown down to a spot on the ground between 
some wooden stakes, my hands were tied down and attached to 
wooden stakes, as well as both my feet. I was now completely tied 
down, lying on my back, spread-eagle on the ground. 

On either side of my face were two stakes. One of the 
interrogators tied a strip of engineers tape to one stake and ran the 
tape flat across the space between my upper lip and my nose, and ran 
the tape through the other stake which had a metal ring attached to it. 
Engineers tape is one-half inch wide cloth material which has no 
glue on either side of it. They usually use it for marking off ground 
locations for troops to walk through after mine fields are detected 
and mines are located by the engineers with mine detectors. That 
way, a soldier could walk through a minefield without getting blown 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now ! 63 



up by staying inside of the marked-off area. But, of course, there are 
other uses for engineer's tape as I soon found out. 

There is a nerve below the skin between your nose and upper 
lip called the 'auricularis oris,' or something of this nature, that no 
one ever knows is there until you have a strip of engineers tape 
stretched and pulled tight across it causing the most unbelievable 
pain than you can ever imagine. They pulled the tape real tight across 
this spot on my mouth, and I thought I was gonna die from the pain. 
It felt like my lip was ripping away from my face. Absolutely 
shocking! They were able to tighten or loosen the strip of tape as 
they liked, and loose was not on the agenda. As I screamed out in 
pain, the pain only worsened with any movement of the slightest 
with my mouth, face, or my tied-down body. Again, they started 
asking the usual questions, and getting no answers at first 
from me, they tightened down the tape some more, causing even 
more excruciating pain. 

Now they hung a bucket of water over my forehead with a small 
hole in the bottom of it, and the water started to drip, one small drip 
at a time, onto my forehead. At first, it didn't feel like much, but as 
the water started to tap onto your forehead, slowly flowing into your 
eyes, you start to blink to try to get the water out of your eyes. Every 
time I blinked, even with the slightest movement of blinking, the 
tape grinded down on the nerve and continued to cause excruciating 
pain that now was going through my whole body. Holy fuck! As that 
is going on, they were still bending over me, screaming at me to 
answer their questions. You could also hear the other guys being 
tortured around you, screaming and crying just like I was doing. 

It went on for about a half hour or so, and I again later learned 
that it was called the infamous Chinese water torture. Just lovely. 
Now being totally blown out, dehydrated, beat to fuck, dirty, caked 
with mud from head to toe, and actually blacking out a bit from time 
to time, I was finally cut loose from the stakes, and the tape was 
removed from my upper lip. My upper lip and face were completely 
numb, and I couldn't feel my upper lip, as if it had been torn off 
of my face, or even talk now. 

Until this day, more than forty years later, I can still sense some 
numbness in my upper lip that has never gone away. What a 



64 Bud Monaco 



wonderful lingering injury I have left to remember the torture after 
all these years. Even under all this duress, it's funny how my mind 
was working as I got to thinking, "Who the fuck came up with these 
fucking crazy tortures? Some Jap Samurai whacked out on sake 
booze, or a fucking crazed American Indian in the Old West 
whacked out on peyote?" 

By now I had lost all sense of time, I was totally blown out, 
mentally, physically, and wracked with pain over my whole body. 
Another thing of note was that all of those tortures did not leave 
a single mark or bruise on any part of my body. Other than the pain, 
there was no trace of torture. They had the tortures figured out, as the 
applications were completely non-invasive, leaving no trace of 
torture to show for all the pain. Nothing like the real deal torture that 
real life POWs endured during captivity, like having a gook 
chopstick pounded into your ear with the butt end of an AK-47 rifle, 
or having bamboo shoots jammed under your fmger nails or toe nails, 
or hanging from a rack with your arms tied behind your back, or 
being forced to play Russian Roulette with your captured comrades, 
winding up blowing your brains out. Real nice. Just swell. 

I was now dragged with the rope still around my neck, still made 
to be crawling on my hands and knees, over to an area that was 
located in one of the corners of the POW compound where two of 
the stockade fence lines met. That square area was filled with filthy 
brown, brackish, scummy swamp water that would gag a maggot, 
about thirty feet across, and thirty feet to the fence line from the 
shore. There were about a half-dozen trainees in the water bobbing 
around. In the water there were gigantic deuce and a half truck tire 
inner tubes blown up, and the trainees that were in the water were 
being screamed at by the instructors to push the inner tubes around 
and quack like a duck. And sure as shit, all of the trainees were 
pushing the inner tubes around and quacking like ducks. In one 
way, it was quite comical, but over all, there was nothing 
funny about anything. 

Now, two of the instructors picked me up bodily, threw me into 
the water head first, and I went under the water, completely immersed. 
I hit the water with the water going into my mouth and nose, causing 
me to gag and puke my guts out. It was a total shock, but I was able 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 65 



to stand up with the water being only about chest high. It was 
actually a great relief to get cooled off in the water, and I started to 
get my senses back, as the cold-ass water was reviving me back to 
some semblance of consciousness. 

As I was standing in the water gathering my mind, about ten 
feet from the shore, some of the instructors and DIs, and you know 
who, yeah right, the prick IstSGT, were standing on the shore. They 
were all clean as a whistle, without a drop of water or a lick of dirt on 
their clean fatigues and boots. 

They continued to scream at everyone in the water, and I came 
to the realization that none of them were about to come into the 
water to enforce their commands. So, pissed off like a motherfucker, 
I reached down to the bottom of the water, grabbed a hand full of 
muck 2ind flung it at them on the shore. They all jumped back to get 
out of the way of the muck I was flinging at them, and they 
continued screaming at me. Ha, fuck them. I screamed back, 
"Fuck you! Come in here and make me push these inner tubes around, 
you fucks. Pound this sand muck up your asses." None of them 
made a move to come into the water. Now I knew for certain they 
weren't coming in that stinking shit water, and they were relying on 
their commands to get us to do what they wanted. So I took another 
handful of muck, flung it at them again, and they moved further back 
from the shore. "Holy fuck," I said to myself, "Now I'm in charge. 
Ha, fuck them. What worse can they do to me? Kill me?" 
I still didn't think so. 

After I flung another two or three handfuls of muck at them, 
I started to look around, wondering why they weren't doing anything 
about it. They were all just standing there, well back from the shore 
line now, just looking at us all in the water, quietly talking among 
themselves. It seemed way out of character by all the instructors, and 
it came to me that something else was going on. Looking over at the 
other trainees in the water, still pushing the inner tubes around and 
quacking like ducks, I waded over to one or two of the guys. I start 
yelling at them to stop pushing the inner tubes around and to stop 
quacking like ducks, because those guys on the shore weren't 
coming in the water to make anyone do that. A couple of the guys in 
the water listened to me and stopped quacking. But the other 



66 Bud Monaco 



natural-born-assholes continued to quack, as they were out of their 
minds, scared shitless of what might happen to them if they 
didn't obey the orders. 

Looking around to size up the water area and the fence line for 
a possible means to escape, I somehow located a somewhat 
concealed fifty-five gallon drum tunnel built into the fence line. The 
tunnel, which was right at the water line, went through the back of 
one of the fences about twenty feet away. "Holy shit," I said to 
myself, realizing it was set up for us to get our faculties together, 
see the escape tunnel, and try to escape. 

I said to two of the guys who had stopped quacking, "There is 
an escape tunnel out of here. Let's all bust a move, hit it, and get the 
fuck out of here." None of them wanted anything to do with my plan. 
So I told them to get fucked and started nonchalantly to slowly wade 
over toward the hole in the fence. When I got near enough, I quickly 
jumped into it like a gangbuster, crawled out the other side, not 
knowing who or what would be on the other side waiting to jump on 
me and beat the shit out of me for escaping. I didn't give a shit by 
then, and I was taking my best shot at escaping from that hell hole of 
torture, no matter who or what was on the other side of the tunnel. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 67 



Chapter 13 



''Any Soldier Who Is Prepared To Die 

Should Not Be Fucked With. 

On The Road To Hell, 

Fort Polk Is One Of Hell's Main Highways.'' 

Icame flying out of the other side of that tube to the outside of the 
stockade fence, and with nobody jumping on me, I quickly headed 
into the forest. I started to run, and run, and run, and run, falHng, 
getting up, running into trees, crashing through the brush until 
I collapsed, which had to be at least a mile or more from the POW 
compound by then. At that point, I couldn't see any of the lights of 
the compound, and I couldn't hear any of the screaming coming out 
of the compound. It was completely silent with an unearthly stillness 
in the deep woods. All I could hear was my heavy breathing, the 
adrenaline was pumping through my veins, and my heart pounding 
in my chest. It was totally pitch-black dark, literally, devoid of light, 
and I couldn't see my hand in front of my face. I was totally lost, and 
I had no idea where I was. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, I was 
nervous as a hound dog shitting razor blades, trying to get my mind 
right and functioning properly. 

But that didn't matter one bit. I was out of the compound and 
free. Goddamned fucking right. / was free! "Elvis has left the 
building. Good night to you motherfuckers!" I quietly said to 
myself. What elation it was for me to the max. I escaped that place 
from those fucks, and I was on my high horse feeling real good about 
myself, even if I was now totally lost in the woods looking like a 
drowned rat. Nothing else mattered to me. "Fuck it," I said to myself, 
"I'll find my way out of the forest to the road they told us about at the 
beginning of the course, or they will find me sooner or later 
when the sun comes up." 

Collapsing onto my ass, and after nodding out for a few 
minutes, I got back up on my feet and started walking to try to find 
my way out of those god-forsaking woods and swamp. The bugs 
biting me became almost unbearable, and on top of everything else, 
it started to rain like a monsoon. It hadn't rained the whole time we 
were at Fort Polk over the past nine weeks, except for the rain that 



68 Bud Monaco 



came during our chicken cooking fiasco, and sure as shit, it was now 
raining again, coming down in buckets Hke cats and dogs. The ground 
turned to mud and I wound up walking into a swamp area that was 
up to my kazoo before I reahzed it. Making my way out of the swamp 
water, I skirted the water as best I could, and kept moving. 

By now, I was totally dehydrated and thirsty as hell, just about 
ready to pass out into unconsciousness, with my throat closing up 
from the hours of exertion I had absorbed during my captivity, and 
now further so, with my escape and running through the woods. So 
I located some leaves that were on the ground, held them in my hands, 
let the rain water fall into them, and drank as much rain water as 
I could. Ha, I thought I was so smart with that survival improvisation 
I came up with, and it gave me a good chuckle. 

The rain finally slowed down and then stopped, as I kept 
moving through the never-ending pine forest swamp, looking for any 
sign of open area and the road. Nothing doing for quite some time, 
but eventually, lo and behold, the tree line opened up with a small 
culvert in front of me that I could barely make out, because it was 
still pitch-black dark out, and there further in front of me, 
I could see the road. 

I made my way to the road bed, and not knowing which way to 
go, I just started walking, hoping that someone would come along to 
fmd me. After a mile or so, I could barely make out a deuce and a 
half truck parked on the side of the road up ahead. I could see 
movement of some soldiers with flashlights. I walked up to them and 
said, "I was a POW and escaped. Is this the truck to take me back to 
the barracks area?" Two of the four soldiers there said, "Yeah, this is 
the truck, but tough shit, fuzz nuts. You are now captured again, 
and are a POW!" 

Fuck me royally with those rat fucks. I couldn't believe what I 
was hearing. Two of them grabbed me by the arms and threw me into 
the back of the truck like a sack of shit. I crashed down onto the bed 
of the truck face first. There were about six other trainees lying face 
down in there all crying and moaning. Our asses were in a 
shit-sling. I have already been put through the fucking ringer, and 
I wasn't taking any more of that shit. 

So I said to them, "Fuck this shit. Dummy up and listen to me. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 69 



Get your shit together and focus yourselves. I've been to the POW 
compound and I escaped. It is a real bad motherfucker in there, and 
you absolutely do not want to be taken there. We have to overpower 
these scum bag aggressors, run the fuck away from here into the 
woods until daylight and find our way back to the barracks and the 
company area. There are six of us, four of them, and we can 
overpower these fucks and escape back into the woods." To continue 
to survive this ordeal I had to confront helplessness with action. 
I further fought my nervousness with anger, and substituted an 
empowering emotion for a helpless one. Persistence is usually 
answered with vengeance, and I was full up from my asshole to my 
eyeballs with vengeance. We had also learned during the E & E 
training that, in accordance with military law, it was imposed for 
a POW soldier to try to escape any way possible. 

None of them would listen to me. So I said, "Fuck you all. 
Follow me, and get the fuck out of here, or suffer the consequences," 
as I low crawled over a couple of them to the back of the truck bed. 
Peeking out over the tail gate of the truck, I could see there was just 
one soldier standing guard alone. I launched myself out the back of 
the truck, jumped on his ass, feet first, right to his goddamned head, 
knocking him to the pavement, punching and flailing at him with my 
fists, screaming at him that I was never going back to the POW 
compound, rolled over, got back on my feet, breaking into a dead 
run, hauling ass right back into the unforgiving forest once again. 
Geeezzzusss fucking christ, here I am again, back in the forest 
and swamp. Goddamned it all. 

So now I asked myself, "What do I do now?" Thinking back, 
I remember locking in my mind that they still couldn't kill me, 
and eventually, when the daylight came, they would have to 
send someone out to find me. But until then, I wasn't going to take 
any chances on getting caught again. No fucking way. 
No fucking way at all. 

A mile or so later, as I traversed the wood line with the road 
barely in sight, I broke out of the woods in a dead run and crossed the 
road, figuring they'd never be looking for me on the other side of the 
road to try to capture me again. I kept on walking through new woods, 
and miles and hours later, I came to another road. Staying in the tree 



70 Bud Monaco 



line where I could see the road, but anyone on the road would not be 
able to see me, I took cover behind a pine tree, and waited out, which 
had to be sometime soon, the eventual upcoming daylight. 

I must have nodded out, and I was awakened by the sound of an 
engine motor. Opening my eyes, it was now just turning daylight. 
Looking out of my hide spot, I could see a jeep coming down the 
road with two MPs riding in it, very visible with their MP helmets 
sporting the MP letters and white stripe, with their MP arm bands 
visible as well. They were stopping every twenty yards or so, and 
hollowing out, 'Trainee Monaco, can you hear us. Are you in 
these woods anywhere?" 

I still wasn't taking any chances, and I was still very wary that 
those MPs were going to fuck me over, so I didn't answer them, 
moved a little further back into the woods so they couldn't see where 
I was, and finally, when they were thirty yards past me on the road, 
I hollered out to them, "Yeah, I'm in here. Who are you and what's 
going on?" They said to me, "Come out of there and we will take you 
back to your company area." I said, "How do I know you ain't going 
to capture me again, and take me back to the POW compound?" 
They hollered back saying, "We are not part of the training exercise. 
We are the military police of Fort Polk, and there is a whole 
company of MPs out here scouring the woods looking for you. You 
are the last remaining trainee still not accounted for. The 
training exercise is over." 

At my wit's end and knowing I wouldn't last much longer on 
my own out in the woods, with no food or water, I hollered out to 
them, "I'm coming out, but if you fuck me over, and try to capture 
me, 77/ kill both of you with my bare hands if I have to. I don't give 
a fuck for nothing." They seemed to get a kick out of my remarks, 
started laughing and said, "Come on out. We are only going 
to take you back to your company area. We promise we won't 
fuck with you." 

So out of the woods I stumbled, cautiously approaching them in 
the jeep, and they were looking at me like they were seeing a fucking 
ghost. They couldn't believe what I looked like. They could see 
I was beaten down to the ankles and dragging ass. One of them said, 
"Do you know there are a hundred MPs and post soldiers out here 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 71 



looking for you? Do you realize that you are the only trainee to 
escape the POW compound in Tiger Land?" I said to them, "That's 
just wonderful, but are we gonna hang around here with our fingers 
up our asses, or are you guys gonna start whistling Dixie and give 
me something to drink?" One of them handed me a canteen of water 
and I started to drink from it greedily. I looked at the two of them, 
still guzzling down the water, smelling stronger than pig shit, and 
said, "Yeah, so what now. Do I get a fucking medal or what?" And 
we all laughed. Even after all of that trauma I still had my faculties 
about me and could still have a good laugh. I climbed into the back 
of the jeep and they drove me back to the company area right up to 
the commanding officer and the IstSGT's office building. 

It was now, as I found out from the MPs, 7:00 a.m., and the rest 
of my training company was over in one of the open areas sitfing on 
the ground cleaning weapons. They all looked at me, getting out of 
the jeep with the MPs, in astonishment, with jaws dropped wide open. 
I looked like death warmed over. And guess who was standing in the 
door of the commanding officer's building? Fucking goddamned right. 
The jackoff IstSGT, looking down at me where I was standing at 
the bottom of the stairs next to the two MPs, also with a look of 
astonishment on his face. 

Unbelievably, with a somewhat sincere voice and with his heavy 
southern drawl, he said to me, "Well, well, well, look at you 
Chicago. La-di-fucking-da, soldier, and I will now call you a soldier, 
as in my book, you are no longer a trainee. I give you my 
compliments on your accomplishments that you have achieved over 
the past nine weeks of AIT, especially during the escape and evasion 
course, and that you were able to survive the torture, becoming the 
only trainee to escape from the POW compound. I know I've been 
very hard on you, but only to make a better soldier out of you. I have 
no doubt in my mind that when you go into combat in Vietnam, you 
will probably survive, and you will surely help many other soldiers 
survive as well. I sincerely commend you on your accomplishments. 
You are now a soldier in this man's Army. I will also personally see 
to it that you are promoted, upon graduation from AIT on Sunday, to 
the accelerated rank of Private First Class E3," but that never did 
happen. He then said, "Now go to the mess hall, and get something 



72 Bud Monaco 



to eat, go back to your barracks, take a shower, clean yourself up, 
and get some sleep. You now have the rest of the morning off." Well, 
knock me down with a fucking feather. Was I shocked hearing those 
words come out of that rat bastard's mouth. But that was how it was 
in the Army. The ending was bittersweet, but couldn't have come 
anytime sooner for me. That's for sure. 

Putting it all in perspective years later after I was discharged, 
and learning about what really went on in the war in Vietnam, the 
terror I endured during those nine weeks of AIT, along with the POW 
experience, in reality, didn't amount to a hill of beans compared to 
the real deal terror and torture that so many soldiers went through 
that were captured, tortured, maimed, and killed by the Viet Cong in 
Vietnam. Another major point is that many POWs spent years upon 
years in POW camps, suffering atrocities on a daily basis with no 
end in sight. None of the training craziness we were subjected to 
ever came close to anything so many soldiers went through during 
combat under fire in Vietnam. 

Although it was a very humbling experience for me, I still shed 
a tear, thanking my lucky stars, every time I see a POW/MIA flag, or 
read about soldiers real life experiences as POWs, or combat 
soldiers in Vietnam, or during any other past or present wars. To this 
day, I have nothing but great respect for soldiers who served in 
combat, or are presently serving in the military, and I always go out 
of my way, taking time to give my regards to any soldier, presently 
on duty, or a veteran I see or meet in person. I always salute any 
POW/MIA flags I see in my travels, surely hoping there are no POWs 
still being held captive in Southeast Asia. 

Looking at it all from another point of view, I have to give credit 
to the instructors and DIs for making soldiers out of us because we 
did have to become soldiers and learn how to survive in a war zone 
or die. Without the proper training we would all quickly become 
dead soldiers in a heartbeat in a combat zone. Even with the proper 
training, many soldiers were still killed, wounded, and captured. All 
the training in the world couldn't prevent that. Life was cheap in a 
combat zone under fire. There was never any easy way out, ever. 

On the other side of the coin, all that training, and becoming a 
soldier became invigorating to a man's overall growth, strength, and 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 73 



mental acuity, doing things you never thought you were capable of 
doing. We all became part of a cohesive fighting machine, learning 
what camaraderie and Espirt de Corps was all about. Soldiers came 
from all parts of the country, from all walks of life. Most of them 
were good men, but there were numerous ass-wipe rock-heads that 
were totally clueless and three bricks shy of a full load that needed to 
have the shit knocked out of them in order to become righteous 
humans, let alone soldiers. 

Most of the instructors and DIs were world-class assholes when 
they were stationed in garrison or as DIs in training brigades. But 
over all, they would be the first soldiers I would want to follow into 
combat, as most of them were veteran combat soldiers that had 
survived combat tours, and knew how to fight in a war, keeping you 
and themselves from becoming a statistic ending up in a body bag. 

There is a further point of view in regards to the operation of the 
escape and evasion course, subsequent capture and torture that 
trainees were forced to endure during the POW experience at AIT 
that should be mentioned. Through the centuries, and many wars all 
around the globe, there have always been soldiers captured during 
wars that ended up being held captive in POW camps. Those soldiers 
were subjected to the most inhumane, vicious, brutal, murderous 
treatment, starvation, disease, physical and psychological torture, that 
has been told in history books, movies, documentaries, and individual 
biographies, vividly showing the horrors of POW treatment. Just 
looking back only as far as the American Civil War, the horrors that 
POW soldiers were subjected to are very well documented through 
the years of military history. Those POWs were mercilessly reduced 
to less than animals, being dehumanized of any dignity, or conscious 
human thought. In the crucible of captivity, capture was the crucible 
that turned the dynamics of success upside down. 

I am not trying to preach conservatism, nor am I a dove in any 
way against wars fought for freedom, human rights, or against 
tyranny caused by despicable despots wreaking havoc on civilian 
populations. I wasn't born to wave the flag, nor was I, or am now, 
totally red, white and blue, but when they wanted to send boys off to 
war and die for their country, they surely pointed the cannon at you. 
During war, interrogations are absolutely needed to prevent the 



74 Bud Monaco 



killing of your own soldiers. But a nation or military that sanctions 
torture with unspeakable atrocities is in danger of losing its soul. 
The Geneva Convention bylaws for proper conduct during war time, 
whatever the hell proper conduct could be as soldiers slaughter each 
other with extreme prejudice in combat, goes right out the window, 
and the atrocities of war viciously continue. 

Military men and civilians alike have been shocked and 
sickened war after war from the past atrocities that POW soldiers 
have endured at the hands of their captors. The notorious POW Civil 
War Confederate Army camp of Andersonville, GA, the Union Army 
Camp at Fort Douglas, Chicago, the Japanese WW II POW camps of 
Bataan in the Philippines and the Bataan Death March, the POWs of 
the slave labor camps forced to build the Burma to Thailand Death 
Railway, which included building The Bridge on the River Kwai, the 
WWII POW Stalags, concentration and death camps of Nazi 
occupied Europe, the Communist North Vietnamese POW Tiger 
Cages and death camps in Southeast Asia, the Communist Russian 
Gulags of Siberia, and the present day Muslim Extremist compounds 
of the Middle East all have proven and continue to show man's 
inhumanity to man with never-ending atrocities. 

And, lest we forget, the American military has committed plenty 
of POW atrocities over the years during wars their own damn selves 
to boot. Many American captors, through all wars, have shown they 
can be just as vicious and ruthless with POWs as any other foreign 
military soldiers. There is plenty of blame to go around to 
all military powers many times over. 

This understanding of POW treatment is what the Army, in 
training soldiers for combat, probably had in mind during training 
courses to prepare a soldier for what would happen to him if 
captured in combat. Overall, it really had no bearing on the outcome 
for any soldier who was unfortunate to be captured and become a 
POW. In retrospect, this training was totally unnecessary. It has been 
duly noted by many historians and military men alike, that physical 
torture to extract information from POWs garnered very little, if any, 
worthwhile information. Men under extreme torture will 
say anything just to stop the pain and agony, hoping their captors 
will show them mercy. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 75 



Chapter 14 

''Mothers Cry. 

Fathers Have Forlorn Eyes. 

Son's Go Off To War 

Soldiers Die J' 

During the next four days, we were issued our new orders for our 
next duty station, and every swinging dick's orders was 
sending us all to Vietnam. We all knew it was going to come to that, 
but it was still mentally shocking, knowing we were going into 
combat in a real war. 

When we first got our new orders, the IstSGT told us what the 
codes meant on the orders, and that we were all going to 
Vietnam. We all marched, yeah that's right, actually marched, not 
having to run that time, to the bank of phones by the PX, and ordered 
to call our parents, telling them ahead of time, before we went back 
home on leave, that we were going to Vietnam. That was done so our 
parents would have a heads up on our assignments, sending 
their sons off to war, and not freak out being surprised by 
our unpredictable future. 

During that time, it was the summer of 1969, and during the 
previous spring, the North Vietnamese- Viet Cong Communist Tet 
Offensive of 1968 had taken place and brought President Nixon, the 
Pentagon, and the U.S. Military Command in Vietnam to the very 
clear realization that the war in Vietnam could never be won. It was 
time to start getting out of Vietnam, bring our soldiers home, and 
bring an end to America's involvement in Southeast Asia. Well, as 
any military man knows, it takes a long time for the military, along 
with the government bureaucrats, to get their shit together, and put 
anything into action, with all the bullshit bureaucratic red tape that is 
always involved with our military or our government. With that 
red tape syndrome, it took about eighteen months after the 
'68 Communist Tet Offensive for the military to start the 
de-escalation of the war, start bringing our soldiers home, and 
get the hell out of Vietnam. 

Previously, during the latter stages of the escalation of the war, 
complete training brigades were being sent to Vietnam right out of 



76 Bud Monaco 



AIT, and being put into combat, literally, as is, trainees, now mostly 
private E2s, training officers, and NCOs included. That was being 
done because most of the regular Army enlisted soldiers and officers 
had served out their combat time in-country. The previous draftees 
had done the same over the past ten years, and there just were not 
enough soldiers to go around that had any time in service who knew 
what the fuck was going on, or how to fight a war and survive. 

That was not working out very well, as the rotation of 
inexperienced combat troops moving into combat zones in Vietnam 
were piling up in body bags due to lack of combat experience, the 
lack of leadership, or combat experienced soldiers being officers or 
NCOs. So in their, very late to facilitate, infinite wisdom, the leaders 
of our country, and our military, finally figured out that they had to 
put a stop to that practice. 

Fortunately, for our training brigade at that time, we became 
one of the first training units to have their orders changed, and 
subsequently, every swinging dick in our training brigade had new 
orders cut, scattering us around to military installations all over 
the world, except Vietnam. 

Some of us were sent to Central America in Panama, some to 
South Korea, some to West Germany, some to Alaska, some to 
Hawaii, some to the Philippines, some to Japan, some to Okinawa, 
and some were sent to posts in the good of U S of A. Those new 
orders really pissed off the IstSGT, and he told us in no few words, 
"You are all a bunch of lucky sons of bitches, and all the time and 
effort I have spent training you is now going to go to waste." 

Well too fucking bad. We could care less, or give a rat's ass 
what he thought. Fuck him and the lifer mentality of a career soldier. 
Lifers, enlisted soldiers, or commissioned officers, who were in the 
military for a twenty year or more career, were all part of the old boy 
network and thought very little of draftees. They treated them all, no 
matter what rank in grade or how good of a soldier a draftee was, like 
some oddball, goober low-lives that didn't deserve to be living just 
because a draftee soldier didn't choose to join up and become a regu- 
lar Army soldier. The regular Army guys, especially the Basic, AIT 
instructors, and DIs, reveled in our demise and suffering, calling it 
combat training under the disguise of military discipline. They wound 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 77 



up through their years in uniform with an imbedded, sadistic mind 
set having the control they had over us, using it in whatever way they 
wanted. Trainees had absolutely no recourse but to follow orders 
or wind up with a Court-Martial and go straight to fucking 
jail in Leavenworth. 

This lifer mentality towards draftees, or soldiers who had 
enlisted for a three year hitch, turned out to be relatively constant, 
even after Basic Training and AIT, as we would all find out during 
our time in service. They claimed to be trying to put into our heads 
that it was part of, "Being proud to belong. Espirt de Corp. An Army 
of One. Being part of a cohesive Army machine of many. Make a 
man out of you." Not! None of us that were not in the Army for a 
career were ever made to feel like part of the big picture. It was all 
total fucking bullshit. The lifers hated us, and that was never going 
to change. In return, we hated every day, and hated every last 
swinging dick DI, lifer sergeant, and officer in this man's Army. 
Fuck them. Fuck the Army ! 

From what I've learned through the years, in actual combat, 
this was not the case overall. In combat, when everyone had to 
depend on each other to do a job, there was a big difference. If you 
couldn't depend on the guy next to you, or the NCO or officer giving 
orders under fire, you and them would wind up in a body bag. But 
the minute soldiers were back in secure areas, or in garrison, it was 
the same old song and dance. 

In training, the only dependence you had with your fellow 
trainees was so that the other guy didn't fuck up, and then everyone 
would get punished collectively. This was the only real group 
dynamics that meant anything to any trainee. 

Those instructors and DIs all became Pavlov's dogs from their 
own conditioned responses that were drummed into them during their 
years in military service, and they were now going to make Pavlov 
dogs out of us. None of that training needed to be that hard, vicious, 
and brutal. But once a menial man gets into a position of power and 
control over another man, the abuse they are able to put upon their 
fellow man becomes coveted by the controller, and too damn bad for 
anyone on the receiving end of their bullshit wrath. 

Another note of fact, there was not very much officer contact 



78 Bud Monaco 



during Basic and AIT training. It was pretty much nonexistent. I guess 
they were all so high and mighty and smarter than the trainees 
and the DIs, being officers and gentlemen, that they didn't 
want to intimidate us too much with their dignified and 
high-up-above-the-rest-of-us mentality. Well, fuck them too! 

Still being in a state of overall shock from Basic Training and 
AIT, and the brainwashing that had been put upon us, none of us still 
fully realized the gist of it all. Even with all this, 'Tiger Land' 
training, none of us knew squat of what was going on in Vietnam, 
and how many soldiers were killed, getting killed, getting wounded, 
the horrors of war, or making it back home to the World in one piece. 

There are times now, as I think back, that I wish I knew some of 
the great movie cliches I know now that I could have used back then. 
"Tell 'em I'm coming. And Hell's coming with me." "Won't they be 
expecting someonel Yeah, they'll be expecting someone, but they 
won't be expecting usT "I don't want any of you soldiers to die for 
your country. I want you to make the other poor bastard die for his 
country." "Are you a soldier or an assassin? You're neither. You're 
just an errand boy sent by grocery clerks to collect the bill." 
"What price glory Sergeant York?" "There's gonna be some killing 
going on around here and Fm the one gonna be doing the killing." 
I'm sure you've heard them all, and they would have all been quite 
fitting to use at the time. I know now, and knew back then, that being 
in the Army was no John Wayne or any other war movie. But 
that was what was happening, and it was not what any of us 
wanted to be a part of. 

We've all seen the old movies and TV series like, "No Time For 
Sergeants," "GI Blues," "Gomer Pyle," and "The Phil Silvers Army 
Show," that showed Army life being so funny, comedic, and 
enjoyable. The real Army in training was absolutely not funny, 
comedic, or enjoyable in any way, shape, or form. To see and 
understand the real training visually, take some time, rent the movie 
"Full Metal Jacket," and watch the first half of that movie. 
Those scenes will put all of this training into full perspective, 
reality, and understanding. 

We came to learn all the Army acronyms and terms over time, 
and every one of them still holds true to this day in the present Army 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 79 

and military services. "FUBAR," fucked up beyond all reason, 
"FUBB," fucked up beyond belief, "SNAFU," situation normal, all 
fucked up, "BOHICA," bend over here it comes again, "FTA," fuck 
the Army, "FNG," fucking new guy, "FULL MOONER," an insane 
soldier, ' AWOL," absent with out leave, "UA," unauthorized absence, 
"Article 15," the Army's non-judicial punishment which could be 
handed out indiscriminately and without cause at the drop of a hat by 
any NCO or officer at their slightest whim. 

Many a soldier's advancement in rank and careers took big 
hits from getting undeserving Article 15s from unscrupulous 
and vindictive NCOs and officer assholes. And, last but not 
least, a "BCD", a Bad Conduct Discharge, or irreverently called 
the big chicken dinner. 

Finally, to our great enjoyment, AIT graduation day arrived on 
Sunday. We all put on our khaki uniforms, looking real sharp with 
our spit-shined boots, brilliantly shined brass belt buckles and collar 
pins, marching across the parade grounds in tight formation, in 
perfect step, while the Fort Polk Army Band in full regalia blasted 
out the Army theme song, ''When Those Caissons Go Rolling Along',' 
with all the generals and the rest of the Fort Polk brass standing 
at attention on the reviewing stand as we passed in review. 

"Eyes right," the command was given as we passed the 
reviewing stand, and we were never so glad to see all those fucks up 
on the reviewing stand for the last time at Fort Polk, LA. Good-bye, 
good goddamned riddance to them, to Fort Polk, and hopefully we 
would never pass that way again. We were happy as pigs in shit. We 
would now be heading back to our homes and families for our first 
furloughs of thirty days of leave time before being sent to our next 
duty stations overseas. My designated duty station assignment was 
the United States Canal Zone in Panama, Central America, and the 
next nineteen months my life would be truly amazing. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 81 

Chapter 15 

Going Home: For Now 

Passing through the front gates of Fort Polk, sitting comfortably 
in my seat on the Continental Trailways bus, leaving the 
grueling weeks of AIT, and the confines of Fort Polk behind me, 
I could not have been more ecstatic. I made it. I survived and 
graduated from AIT. Yeeehaaa! I was flying high and just having 
a great time. I, along with numerous other soldiers on the bus, was 
no longer suffering the moniker of trainees anymore, or the terrors 
of AIT. I didn't look back, and said a final good-goddamned-bye, 
giving the finger in a final salute to that wretched place, hopefully to 
never have to pass that way again. It was now late September, 1969. 

Wearing my freshly pressed khaki uniform, my newly sewn on 
private E-2 chevron on my sleeves, my Expert Marksman badge and 
National Defense Service ribbon pinned on my uniform, wearing the 
coveted Army Infantry Designation blue braid over my shoulder, and 
my Army dress shoes spit shined to perfection. I was looking sharp, 
and on top of the world. I was headed back home to Chicago for my 
first furlough, which would last thirty days, before I would have to 
return to the Army and be sent to my next duty station assignment 
in Panama, Central America. Without doubt, I was really looking 
forward to returning home for the first time in seventeen weeks. That, 
was by far, the longest time I had ever spent away from home, and it 
ftXijust great to be heading back north up Interstate Highway 65 to 
Chicago, just sitting back enjoying the ride. 

I arrived and walked out of the bus station in downtown 
Chicago that Monday carrying my Army duffle bag over my 
shoulder, glad that the ass aching, ten hour bus ride was over. My pal 
Frankie met me there to pick me up with his same '57 Ford Sky liner 
Hardtop Convertible, which wasn't looking as cherry as it was 
seventeen weeks earlier. Frankie had a real knack for driving cars 
into the ground. The '57 had numerous new dents in the fenders, a 
couple of hubcaps missing, and the muffler was shot, making the 
Ford sound like it had open headers rumbling very loud. Seeing 
Frankie and hearing the rumble of the muffler, I was so very glad and 
happy to be back in Chicago, heading back to the block and home 



82 Bud Monaco 



again. Oh baby, home again, it was so sweet. 

Arriving at my parent's house and walking up the front stairs of 
the Paulina Street bungalow was a beautiful thing. My mom, dad, 
and two sisters, Marilyn and Anita, were there to greet me with hugs 
and kisses all around. Mom had been in the kitchen cooking all day 
in anticipation of my arrival, making her trademark, homemade 
Italian lasagna stuffed with Ricotta cheese, and home-made meat 
balls in a divine tomato sauce. It was all laid out ready to eat on 
the dining room table. 

Not wasting any time, we all sat down at the table, and 
I hungrily, like a ravaged, starving dog, dug in, stuffing this 
wonderful food into my mouth with wild abandon. It was absolutely 
heaven, to be eating Mom's home cooking after having to eat the 
ragged-tasting Army slop they called food I had been forced to eat 
over the past seventeen weeks. I devoured everything in sight, 
loading up on seconds and thirds, loving every fork full with extreme 
pleasure. Mom's cooking was one of the taken for granted pleasures 
that I would never take for granted again. 

Stuffed to the max with Mom's wonderful food, I headed out of 
the house to visit some of my friends on the block, my aunts, uncles, 
and cousins who lived on 71'' Street and on Hermitage, as well as a 
few neighbors. I was still wearing my khaki Army uniform to show it 
off, of course. I was pretty proud wearing my Army uniform, 
enjoying the moment and the pleasure of being back at home. 

Later that evening, I finally took off my Army uniform, putting 
on my civilian clothes, and it never felt better putfing on an old 
t-shirt, a pair of blue jeans, and my Stacy Adams, white stitched, 
pointed black dress shoes. It was too warm out to wear my black 
Italian Cabretta leather. I then headed out to go meet up with the 
ol' gang of guys. The Park Boys, who I hung out with over at Murray 
Park on 73rd and Hermitage, to shoot the shit, smoke cigarettes, and 
just stand around being cool. What an exceptional feeling it was back 
hanging out with the ol' crew, telling them all about the exploits of 
my Army training. We had a ball, and I just loved the hell 
out of it every minute. 

Later in the evening that night, I was pretty beat up and 
exhausted from the long bus ride home and all the homecoming 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 83 



activity. So grudgingly, not wanting this night to end, I headed back 
home to sleep in my own bed once again. It was stupendously 
outstanding to be able to lie down in my own bed, by myself with my 
own pillow, not being in an Army barracks trying to sleep on a paper 
thin, fluid stained, worn-out Army mattress with a hundred other 
soldiers snoring, farting in their bunks, and shitting in the latrine all 
night long. It was a beautiful thing, and I slept peacefully, like I hadn't 
slept for over seventeen weeks. 

Over the following four weeks of my furlough, I frantically 
jammed everything I could into every hour, day, and night. 
Sometimes the good times lasted all night long and into the dawn. 
I did a lot of sleeping and was sure to sleep as late as I could every 
morning. I wasn't about to be getting up at 4:00 and 5:00 a.m., as 
I had been doing for reveille. Not a chance of that happening. I spent 
a lot of time with my friends hanging out at the park, cruisin' around 
in cars, trying to pick up girls, doing a bit of drinking, but I wasn't 
much of a drinker. I went to a Chicago White Sox baseball game at 
Comisky Park with my Dad, played some 16" Softball, a little tag 
football, ate pizza at Louie George's Italian Restaurant, ate Italian 
beef sandwiches from Cal Mar's Restaurant, with a bag of Cal's 
famous french fries, went to the Double Drive-In Theater on 
Southwest Highway, where we spent a lot of nights in earlier years 
once I, or someone else, actually had cars to drive into the drive-in. 

One of the times we went to the Double Drive-In Theater, riding 
in Frankie's '57, was monumentally hysterical. Everybody knew about 
the old trick of guys hiding in the trunk of a car so as not to have to 
pay to get in, and we had done it many times before over the years. 
A few nights earlier, we were cruisin' around in Frankie's 
convertible hardtop and found out that one of the guys had gotten 
arrested for a speeding ticket and driving without a driver's license. 
So Frankie was barreling down 69th Street rushing to his house to 
get some money to bail our friend out of jail. Frankie accidently hit 
the convertible top toggle switch on the dashboard and the top started 
going down. That model Ford was set up so the solid convertible 
hard top would lift up, and slide on special hinges under the trunk 
lid, which would rise up from the back window area, opening for the 
top to slide into, and then close shut electronically. That '57 was the 



84 Bud Monaco 



same year model as the one Robert Mitchum drove in the 1958 movie 
"Thunder Road," except Mitchum's was a four door Fairlane. 

We were laughing together, not paying attention to the 
convertible top going down over our heads, until it was too late. With 
Frankie speeding like a madman, pedal to the metal, down the street, 
the wind and speed of the car grabbed the convertible hardtop, and 
completely ripped it off of the hinges, sending it flying through the 
air like a kite, crashing on the street behind us, and Frankie just kept 
going, screaming out to us, "Holy shit, did you see that? Fuck it. 
We'll go back and get it later," as we were all roaring with laughter, 
not giving two shits about the convertible top, or the damage it did to 
the car, convertible hardtop and trunk lid. You really had to be there 
to fully picture that convertible hardtop go flying through the air. 

So a few nights later when we went to the Double Drive-In 
Theater, Frankie was driving with no top on the '57 Ford, one guy in 
the front seat with him, and there were three of us jammed into the 
trunk, hardly fitting in there at all, as there wasn't much room like 
there would be in a normal trunk, due to the mechanical braces and 
motor that operated the convertible hardtop. The three of us were 
trying to move around in the confined space, in the dark of the trunk, 
kicking each other, trying to make more room for our legs, arms, and 
heads, trying to light up cigarettes, laughing our asses off like 
a bunch of silly sons of bitches. 

Frankie was yelling at us from the front seat to shut up, as he 
pulls into the drive-in to purchase tickets, but we were laughing so 
hard, we didn't hear him, not realizing that he had already pulled 
into the drive-in and up to the ticket booth. So guess what? Right, of 
course, the guy in the ticket booth heard us jacking around in the 
trunk, made Frankie open it, and saw the three of us smashed in there 
like sardines in a can, still laughing our asses off. So the ticket guy 
says, "You jackoff morons, get the fuck out of the trunk, get 
your asses in the back seat, and all of you are going to pay to get in, 
or I'm calUng the cops." 

Only then did we realize that we didn't have enough money for 
all five of us to buy tickets, and we had to leave by pulling out of the 
long line of cars behind us, jamming up everyone in line with them 
all yelling, cursing, and honking their horns at us, as Frankie had to 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 85 



make a three-point turn in a small confined space, drive in the 
opposite direction of all the cars lined up to enter, and drive out of 
the ticket area, back out onto the street, getting the hell out of there 
before they called the cops. Fun stuff. We laughed ourselves silly 
about that many times over, and were never allowed back at the 
drive-in, at least not with Frankie's '57. There were many stories in 
the naked city. That was just one of mine. 

The next few weeks during September and October, 1969, went 
by very quickly, and before I knew it, my furlough days were over. 
Time had arrived for me to put my Army uniform back on, grab my 
duffle bag, and head to the airport for my trip to Fort Jackson, South 
Carolina for my processing to my overseas duty station in Panama. 
Saying good-bye to my family and friends, I climbed back 
into Frankie's, now-coming-apart-at-the-seams '57, taken to 
Midway Airport, boarded my plane, landing in Columbia, NC, and 
taking an Army shuttle bus through the front gates of Fort Jackson to 
the processing center for my flight to Panama. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 87 



Chapter 16 



Panama: The Beginning Of The Long Road 
Back To The World 

The processing at Fort Jackson was quick, simple, and along with 
a few other soldiers on the following day, we were shuttled back 
to the Columbia airport for a commercial flight to Panama. There 
were only three other soldiers who I went through training with that 
I met at Fort Jackson who had orders for Panama. 

Louie Chandler from St. Louis, MO, Carl LeBeau from Ottawa, 
IL, and Bob Krueger from Berwyn, IL, and myself, were the only 
four soldiers going our way that day to Panama. Our flight landed at 
Tocumen International Airport a few miles outside of Panama City. 
Louie, Carl, and I were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Infantry 
Regiment at Fort Kobbe, and Bob was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 
20th Infantry Regiment at Fort Clayton. I only saw him a few times 
after our arrival in Panama. Bob met his unfortunate fate on a 
Panamanian road, and was killed in an Army truck convoy roll-over 
accident just three months later in December, 1969. It was very sad 
hearing that terrible news of my friend Bob's death. 

We were picked up at the airport by an Army one and a quarter 
ton truck, with a driver and Army Staff Sergeant Packardie, who 

turned out to be my 
Platoon Sergeant after I was 
processed in and assigned. 
The drive from the 
airport to Fort Kobbe took 
us through some rural 
countryside, giving us our 
first look at the Panamanian 
landscape and jungle, and 
then down the road through 
Panama City, across the gigantic Bridge of the Americas, which 
connected North America and South America over the Panama 
Canal. A mile or so further we entered the main gate of Fort Kobbe 
and Howard Air Force Base, following a long stretch of road, 
passing the Air Force Base and military housing, to the Fort Kobbe 




88 Bud Monaco 



Battalion area. During the ride, SSG Packardie was a real nice guy, 
pleasant, talking to us like normal human beings, absolutely nothing 
like the DIs at Basic and AIT. That turned out to be the normal way 
a soldier in Army garrison was treated, leaving all the crazy 
screaming and ranting by the training DIs behind us, now that we 
were actually soldiers, and not some scum bag trainees. That was 
a big surprise, but very gladly accepted. 

Fort Kobbe was located on the west bank area of the Panama 
Canal, close to the Pacific entrance of the canal, just north of the Bay 
of Panama, with the Pacific Ocean to the west. Fort Kobbe hosted 
the Theater Equipment and Maintenance Site, a facility that supported 
disaster relief missions, other civic and humanitarian services 
for Central and South America, and was the home base of the 3rd 
Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment of the 193rd Infantry Brigade which 
also had the Brigade Headquarters located there. 

The first military installation at Fort Kobbe, which commanded 
the Bay of Panama on the west bank of the Canal, was a defensive 

position established in 
1918. It was made a 
permanent military post, 
designated Fort Bruja, 
and incorporated as a 
sub-post of Fort Amador 
on February 2, 1929. It 
was used for coast 
artillery emplacements 
utilized in the Harbor Defense of Balboa, and supported by several 
positions, which later became anti-aircraft batteries. Fort Bruja was 
redesignated as Fort Kobbe on April 15, 1932, to honor Major 
General William A. Kobbe, an artillery officer who played 
a prominent role with the U.S. Forces during the Philippine 
Insurrection. In 1937, the necessity for an additional airfield in the 
Canal Zone arose, and the most suitable site was in the Venado River 
Valley, a part of Fort Kobbe. An air strip known as Bruja Point Air 
Base was built, and later redesignated as Howard Field, in honor of 
Major Charles H. Howard of the U.S. Army Air Corps. 

Fort Kobbe was presently the home of the 3rd Battalion, 




DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 89 



5th Infantry Regiment, 193rd Infantry Brigade, United States 
Southern Command (USSOCOM). The 3rd BattaHon, 5th Infantry 
Regiment, and the 193rd Infantry Brigade had storied histories. 

The 193rd Infantry Brigade was first activated from 1922 to 
1946, and then reactivated on August 8, 1962, at Fort Kobbe, Canal 
Zone, as a mobile force for swift intervention in case of trouble in 
Latin America. The Brigade initially included three infantry 
battalions, one of which was an airborne unit. In 1968 the airborne 
battalion was replaced by an infantry battalion. In 1969 the Brigade 
consisted of three infantry battalions, one company of the 3rd and 
the 5th remained airborne, and the other was a field artillery 
battalion, with a support battalion attached. Its battle cry motto 
was, "No Ground to Give." 

The 193rd Infantry Brigade was the major tactical unit of 
USSOCOM, with organic mechanize and infantry battalions, a field 
artillery battery, an engineer company, and aviation company. Other 
units included the 8th Special Forces Group (Airborne), the 4th 
Missile Battalion of the 517th Artillery Battalion, the 470th 
Intelligence Group, the 3rd Civil Affairs Group, the U.S. Army School 
of the Americas, also known as Jungle Operations Training Center 
(JOTC), the Inter-American Geodetic Survey, and the Atlantic 
Area Installation Command. 

The 193rd Infantry Brigade was originally constituted in the 
Organized Reserves on June 24, 1922, as Headquarters and 
Headquarters Company, 193rd Infantry Brigade, and assigned to the 
97th Infantry Division. The Brigade was reorganized and 
reconstituted in February 1942, as the 97th Reconnaissance Troop, 
97th Infantry Division. In February 1943, the Troop was ordered to 
active military service, and organized at Camp Swift, Texas. It was 
reorganized and re-designated October 1945 as the 97th Mechanized 
Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop. 

During WWII, the 97th Reconnaissance Troop landed at 
LeHarve, France, on March 2, 1945 as part of the 97th Infantry 
Division. The Division crossed the German border west of Aachen 
and took up a defensive position along the west bank of the Rhine 
River opposite Dusseldorf, engaging in combat patrols. The 
Division then entered the Battle of the Ruhr Pocket, crossing the 



90 Bud Monaco 



Rhine near Bonn, and taking up a position on the southern bank of 
the Siege River. It crossed that river against Ught resistance and fought 
a street-to-street engagement in Siegburg. 

Pushing on toward Dusseldorf, through difficult terrain and 
heavy resistance in densely wooded areas, the Division captured 
Solingen. Dusseldorf fell on the next day, and the Ruhr Pocket was 
eliminated. The 97th Reconnaissance Troop played a vital role in the 
Ruhr Campaign. Besides its customary reconnaissance and 
patrolling duties, the unit once was charged with protecting 
the entire left flank of the Division. 

Moving to protect the left flank of the Third Army on its 
southern drive, the 97th Division took Cheb, Czechoslovakia, and 
attacked the Czechoslovak Pocket near Widen, Germany. It had 
advanced to Knstantinovy Lazne, Czechoslovakia, when it received 
the cease fire order on May 7, 1945. The Division left for LeHarve 
on June 16, 1945, for redeployment to the Pacific Theater, arriving at 
Cebu, Philippine Islands on September 16, 1945, and then 
sailed to Japan for occupation duty, arriving at Yokohama 
on September 23, 1945. 

The 97th Mechanized Reconnaissance Troop inactivated in 
March, 1946, in Japan. The unit converted and redesignated in July, 
1962, as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 193rd Infantry 
Brigade and relieved from assignment to the 97th Infantry Division. 

In 1961, after the abortive Bay of Pigs Invasion and rumors of 
Soviet assistance to Cuba, the Secretary of Defense decided to 
bolster available U.S. Army forces in the Caribbean area. The Army 
replaced the battle group in the Panama, Canal Zone, with the 193rd 
Infantry Brigade, which was activated on August 8, 1962. The 193rd 
Infantry Brigade became known as, "a combat ready reaction unit 
prepared at all times to protect and defend the Canal, the U.S. 
military installations in the Canal Zone, the military dependents, and 
American civilians living and working in the Canal Zone." 

In October 1983, the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 187th 
Infantry Regiment were assigned to the 193rd Infantry Brigade in 
Panama. The 2nd Battalion started with one airborne company within 
the Battalion, and later jump status was expanded to the entire 
Battalion. The 1st Battalion was not on airborne status in the 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now ! 91 

Republic of Panama. During a realignment of the United States 
Army's combat forces in 1987, the 1st and 2nd Battalions were 
inactivated in Panama and reactivated at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. 

In December 1989, after more than a year of diplomatic tension 
between Panama and the US, the President ordered the invasion of 
Panama, code named Operation Just Cause, to depose its General 
and de facto leader Manuel Noriega. The mission of the 193rd 
Infantry Brigade, designated Task Force Bayonet, was to isolate and 
clear Noriega's Commandancia Headquarters, seize and secure the 
Panama Defense Force's Engineer Battalion compound, portions of 
Fort Amador, seize the Balboa and Ancon National Defense 
Investigative Command (DENI) and the Balboa Department of 
Transportation stations, protect U.S. housing areas, and protect 
critical defense sites and areas. 

On December 20, 1989, the executive order was given to put 
Operation Just Cause into effect. On December 21, 1989, the 508th 
Battalion, known as Task Force Red Devil, cleared the Amador Yacht 
Club, Amador Marina, La Boca, and the American housing area. After 
conducting a relief in place with the U.S. Rangers, Task Force Red 
Devil conducted numerous follow on missions, including perimeter 
security, and acted as a Quick Reaction Force for any contingencies, 
which included conducting reconnaissance for possible weapons 
caches, mine fields, and other violations of the cease fire. 

Meanwhile, Task Force Wildcat attacked and seized critical 
objectives in Panama City to include the Balboa National Defense 
Investigative Command (DENI), the Panama Defense Forces (PDF) 
investigative branch, the Direccion Nacional de Transporte Terrestre, 
which served as headquarters of the National Police, the Ancon DENI, 
and the PDF Engineer complex on Albrook Air Force Base. Each of 
those objectives lay astride the key lines of communication into the 
center of Panama City. In the days following the initial assault. Task 
Force Wildcat conducted stability operations, and was involved in 
the security of the Santa Felipe, Santa Anna, El Marana, and Chorillo 
sections of the city. During the remainder of the operation. 
Task Force Wildcat secured key sites in Panama City, and reacted to 
security and civil military tasking. 

Task Force Gator helped clear the Commandancia and 



92 Bud Monaco 



conducted security missions at the Papal Nuncature, Quarry Heights, 
Balboa Heights, Diablo Heights, and Fort Amador, which continued 
until the task force was relieved on January 22, 1990. 

With La Commandancia in U.S. hands and reinforcement routes 
blocked, the possibility of organized resistance by the PDF collapsed. 
On January 3, 1990, Manuel Noriega surrendered. Units began 
returning to the states as early as January 20, 1990. 

The 193rd Infantry Brigade however, remained in Panama and 
continued to provide a military presence. On October 14, 1994, after 
more than thirty-two years of providing ground defense for Panama, 
the 193rd Infantry Brigade was honored as the first major unit to 
inactivate in accordance with the Panama Canal Treaty of 1977. The 
treaty implementation plan mandated U.S. forces withdrawal from 
Panama by December 1999. On January 31, 2007, the 193rd 
Infantry Brigade was reactivated at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, 
with the mission to conduct combat training for the Army. 

The 193rd Infantry Brigade Unit Distinctive Insignia shoulder 
patch was a sharp-looking crest that stood out beautifully when 
it was worn in its full color on unit soldiers' khaki uniforms, 
or Army dress greens. 

The unit crest consists of a red upright bayonet, which denotes 
the basic ground combat mission of the Infantry. The red bayonet 
lies on a white background, representing the old infantry colors with 
two blue diagonal stripes, representing a map symbol of the Canal 
Zone. It was proudly worn by all Brigade soldiers. 

The 5th Infantry Regiment nicknamed. The Bobcats,' with 
its motto being, "I'll Try Sir," origin, is the third oldest infantry 
regiment, dating back to 1908. During the Indian Wars of 181 1, the 
5th Infantry Regiment fought gallantly against Chief Tecumseh's 
Shawnee Indian Tribe near Prophetstown, Indiana, during the 
Battle of Tippecanoe. 

In 1812, during the Anglo-American War of 1812, on July 12, 
1812, the 5th Infantry Regiment fought in the Battle of Lundy's Lane, 
which is the present day site of Niagara Falls, Ontario. It was one 
of the deadliest, bloodiest battles ever fought on Canadian soil. 

During the Mexican War of 1846-1848, the 5th Infantry 
Regiment fought many battles in the War for American Independence 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 93 



in the Southwest. The 5th Infantry Regiment had many casualties, 
but was the victor, handing out defeat, routing the Mexican 
Army as the 5th Infantry Regiment drove its forces all the 
way to Mexico City. 

The beautiful Distinctive Unit Insignia of the 5th Infantry 
Regiment is a silver color shield, with two concave arcs at the top, 
with a coat of arms for the unit super-imposed on the shield, with 
seven muzzle loading cannons embossed onto the shield, 
commemorating the Battle of Lundy's Lane. There is a wreath 
border of red, white, and green, with an arm in armor enbowed, 
grasping in a mailed hand, nine arrows, signifying victorious battles 
the unit had fought against enemies of America. There is a single 
white arrow at the center on a bed of red to commemorate the Battle 
of Tippecanoe. The unit motto, "I'll Try Sir," is lettered in a white 
scroll at the bottom. 

The 5th Infantry was posted at Camp Paraiso, Panama Canal 
Zone, from 1939-1943. It had previously been posted at 
Fort Williams, Maine, where it was nominally assigned to the 
inactive 9th_Infantry Division. 

With the onset of World War II, the 5th Infantry was made 
a part of the 71st Infantry Division, and participated in an 
experiment to develop a Light Infantry Division, capable 
of operating in harsh terrain from the mountains to the desert. The 
Light Division was deemed unnecessary for World War II, and the 
71st Infantry Division was converted back to a regular Infantry 
Division. The 5th was sent to Europe in January 1945, with the rest 
of the Division, and was in the front lines a month later. Initially 
taking defensive positions, the 5th was soon on the offensive, driving 
into Germany. The Regiment fought through southern Germany, 
capturing the cities of Fulda, Bayreuth and Nuremberg. The 5th 
Infantry was the first U.S. Army unit to cross the Danube River, and 
the first to invade Austria. For its participation in the Second World 
War, the 5th was presented the following Battle Streamers: Rhineland, 
Central Europe, and American Theater. 

The 5th Infantry performed occupation duty in Austria for a 
year after WW II and was deactivated in November 1946. The 
Regiment reactivated in South Korea on January 1, 1949, with 



94 Bud Monaco 



personnel and support units from the departing 7th Infantry 
Division. It constituted the core of the 5th Infantry 
Regimental Combat Team (RCT), with the mission to provide 
security while all U.S. troops were withdrawn from the country. The 
5th RCT left Korea effective June 31, 1949 and was transferred to 
Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, where it was when the Korean War began. 

It deployed to Korea on July 25, 1950, to reinforce Eighth Army 
in the shrinking area of United Nations control known as the Pusan 
Perimeter. In July and August, it reinforced the 25th Infantry 
Division, then the 1st Cavalry Division on the Naktong River line. 
In September, the RCT was attached to the 24th Infantry Division, 
replacing the 34th Infantry Regiment. It remained with the 24th 
Infantry Division until January 1952, when it officially became 
a separate RCT again, and was assigned to IX Corps. 

In 1959, the 1st Battle Group, 5th Infantry, was assigned to the 
1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas. It was reassigned to the 
25th Division on February 1, 1963, and reorganized as the 1st 
Battalion, 5th Infantry on August 12. 

It was sent to Vietnam in January 1966, and it was one of the 
few mechanized units to serve in that war. Though faced with 
considerable problems posed by operating in the jungle, 
the 5th fought fiercely, and was feared by the enemy. 

The 5th won a Valorous Unit Award when the 2nd Brigade Task 
Force, 25th Infantry Division, distinguished itself by extraordinary 
heroism in ground combat against the Viet Cong in the Republic of 
Vietnam during the period January through April, 1966. Ordered to 
secure a base of operations for itself and the remainder of the 25th 
Infantry Division in the vicinity of the town Tan An Hoi in the 
Cu Chi District of Vietnam, the Brigade Task Force embarked on 
sixty- six days of continuous combat operations in a completely 
Viet Cong dominated, heavily entrenched, and fiercely defended area. 

On January 1966, combat operations began to seize, clear, and 
secure the area selected for a base of operations. For the initial four 
days, brigade combat elements moved forward against devastating 
automatic weapons, continual harassing sniper fire, well established 
mine fields, vast underground systems of tunnels, trenches, 
spider holes, and fortifications unrivaled in Vietnam. Displaying 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 95 



extraordinary heroism and unwavering determination, task force 
elements methodically cleared the area of a fanatical enemy force 
that was manning the fortifications. That entire action was 
characterized by numerous acts of personal sacrifice and heroism. 
During the period January 30 to April 5, the Brigade conducted eleven 
major operations against the Viet Cong with battalion or larger sized 
forces engaged in fierce battle against a hostile enemy. 

On April 5, 1966, after sixty six days of continuous combat, the 
Brigade had seized, cleared, and secured the base of operations, and 
surrounding area in the vicinity of Cu Chi, Republic of Vietnam. 
A total of four hundred and forty- four Viet Cong had been killed by 
body count. Viet Cong activities throughout the Cu Chi District were 
severely disrupted, and the Viet Cong greatly discredited in the eyes 
of the local populace. During those momentous sixty-six days, the 
Brigade displayed utmost courage and indomitable spirit, and as a 
unit it demonstrated extraordinary heroism, as it unwaveringly and 
unceasingly pitted itself against hard core, experienced, entrenched, 
and determined enemy forces. The indomitable spirit and 
extraordinary heroism with which the 2nd Brigade Task Force 
engaged, battled, and defeated a fortified and determined enemy 
during that period of continuous combat operations is in keeping 
with the finest tradition of the United States Army and reflects great 
credit upon all members of the Task Force who participated 
in the Battle for Cu Chi. 

Under the command of then. Lieutenant Colonel, now Major 
General (Retired), Andrew H. Anderson, the 5th Infantry 
(Mechanized), received its third Presidential Unit Citation: "The 1st 
Battalion (Mechanized), 5th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division, and its 
attached units distinguished themselves by extraordinary heroism in 
combat operations against numerically superior enemy forces in the 
Republic of Vietnam from August 18 to September 20, 1968." 
During that period the 1st Battalion Task Force, through 
reconnaissance in force, ambush, counter- ambush, and reaction 
missions, effectively destroyed a regimental- sized enemy force and 
prevented the enemy from seizing the initiative in its third offensive. 
The officers and men of the Task Force displayed outstanding 
bravery, high morale, and exemplary Esprit de Corps in fierce 



96 Bud Monaco 



hand-to-hand combat and counter-offensive action against well 
disciplined, heavily armed, and entrenched enemy forces. 

An example of the outstanding bravery and aggressiveness 
occurred August 21 during a reconnaissance in force mission. The 
lead elements of Company C, 1st Battalion, came under heavy 
mortar, rocket-propelled grenade, machine gun, and automatic 
weapons fire. The Company deployed against the enemy forces, while 
the scout platoon protected the company flank, and prevented 
reinforcement by a battalion- sized enemy unit. Through skillful use 
of close supporting fires from artillery, helicopter gunships, and 
tactical air support, the officers and the men of the Task Force 
repulsed human wave counterattacks and defeated a numerically 
superior enemy force, which left one hundred and eighty-two 
dead on the battlefield. 

The individual acts of gallantry, the teamwork, and the 
aggressiveness of the officers and men of the 1st Battalion Task Force 
continued throughout the period of prolonged combat operations, 
resulting in the resounding defeat of enemy forces in their 
operational area. The heroic efforts, extraordinary bravery, and 
professional competence displayed by the men of the 1st Battalion, 
5th Infantry, and attached units are in the highest traditions of the 
military service and reflect great credit upon themselves, their units, 
and the Armed Forces of the United States. 

The 5th fought for five hard years in Vietnam, again 
establishing its reputation for tough fighting, perseverance in harsh 
conditions and excellence in the face of enemy opposition. For its 
participation in the Vietnam War, the 5th Infantry was presented the 
following Battle Streamers: Counteroffensive, Counteroffensive 
Phase II, Counteroffensive Phase III, Tet Counteroffensive, 
Counteroffensive Phase IV, Counteroffensive Phase V, 
Counteroffensive Phase VI, Sanctuary Counteroffensive, and 
Counteroffensive Phase VII. The unit received a Presidential Unit 
Citation and a Valorous Unit Award. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 97 



Chapter 17 

Fort Kobbe 

The 3rd Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment area at Fort Kobbe 
consisted of two wide streets with a concrete drainage ditch 
running the length of the streets. The three line company's soldier's 
barracks, including the Headquarters and Headquarters, and 
Battalion Headquarters buildings, lined the street on both sides, 
consisting of ten four-story buildings. 

The buildings were completely made of concrete, separated 
twenty yards apart and forty yards across the street from each other 

with the entrances laying lower 
than the street level in a three foot 
depressed berm. They were 
designed that way so that if the 
Battalion was attacked by air 
attack or ground force artillery, 
soldiers would be able to take 
cover in the ground floor and be 
protected from flying shrapnel. 
Soldiers could also use the 
ground floor for a defensive 
position, using the depressed berm for fighting positions on 
all sides of each building. 

Each building's roof overhung the outside walls of each floor 
by eight feet to keep the sun and the rain out and was covered with 
red, half-pipe shaped, molded clay shingles. The many large 
window frames had no glass whatsoever, only having large, 
removable screens for ventilation, and to keep the bugs out. And, 
there were lots of bugs, as most of the area around Fort Kobbe and 
Howard Air Force Base was uninhabitable jungle. 

On the west side of the battalion buildings was a large parade 
and training field. On an overlooking hill to the north, was the 193rd 
Infantry Brigade Headquarters building, which was the highest point 
in the area. A hundred yards across the parade field, there were three 
more of the same type of buildings, which were the barracks and 
headquarters for the Battalion's 517th Field Artillery Unit. The 




98 Bud Monaco 



parade field also served as a helicopter landing zone when 
necessary, and was used extensively for that purpose during 
Operation Just Cause in 1989. 

Further down the road, a quarter mile to the west, the 
S-4 Battalion Supply Depot, Airborne Riggers Shed, and Battalion 
Motor Pool, were shoehorned into a large area of jungle that was 
bulldozed clear many years back by Army Engineers, using gigantic 
earth moving Rome tractor plows. Army Rome plows had 
twenty-foot wide plow blades that could cut a swath of jungle wide 
open with no problem in just a few passes, making plenty of room 
for the buildings to be built. 

The 3rd Battalion buildings were designated as such; 
A Company Airborne occupied two buildings on the north end on 
the west side of the battalion area; Headquarters and Headquarters 
Company occupied three buildings in the center and south end on 
the west side; B Company occupied two buildings on the north end 
on the east side of the battalion area; Battalion Headquarters 
occupied the center building on the east side; C Company occupied 
two buildings on the south end on the east side. 

All of the Battalion Headquarters Officers and top NCOs were 
airborne qualified and assigned full airborne jump status, as well as 
the commanding officers of Headquarters and Headquarters 
Company, and the line outfits of B Company and C Company. It was 
set up for the COs and NCOs to compliment the Airborne 
A Company in combat or training. 

The two upper floors of the buildings housed the soldier's 
barracks, showers, latrines, and sleeping quarters, which were mostly 
large, open-bay areas, with metal-spring single bunks, standing metal 
lockers, and wooden foot lockers for each soldier, with two separate 
room quarters in each bay corner for non-commissioned officers 
(NCOs), who were platoon staff sergeants and squad leader sergeants. 

The first floors were used for the Company Commander and 
First Sergeant's office. Company Clerks office, Operations/Training 
room. Armorer and Weapons vaults, Battalion Personnel offices, 
and the mess halls. 

The lower levels contained individual Line Company's Platoon 
rooms, 81mm Squads Mortar bays, 4.2" Mortar Platoon bay. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 99 



Company Supply rooms, Sniper/Shooting Team Squad bay, 
Reconnaissance Platoon bay. Battalion Doctor and Medics bay. 
Communication and Radio bays, barber shop, dry cleaner, tailor shop, 
and Company Day rooms. 

The U.S. Army military bases in the Canal Zone consisted of 
seven main Army posts. Three of the bases were part of the 193rd 
Infantry Brigade and included: The 3rd Battalion, 5th Infantry 
Regiment at Fort Kobbe on the Pacific side of the Canal Zone; The 
4th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment at Fort Clayton, centrally 
located closer to the Pacific side of the Canal Zone; and the 4th 
Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment at Fort Davis on the Atlantic 
side of the Canal Zone. 

The other Army operational bases in the Canal Zone were Fort 
Sherman, Fort Gulick, and Fort Randolph, which were posts 
designated for numerous Army operation commands such as The 
Jungle Operations Training Center (JOTC), U.S. Army Tropic Test 
Center (ATTC), Army Airborne Training Center (AATC), and Fort 
Amador, which was the Army Headquarters. The Headquarters of 
the United States Southern Command (USSOCOM) was located at 
Quarry Heights, which was Headquarters for all the U.S. Military, 
including the Army, Marines, Navy, and Air Force units stationed 
in the Canal Zone. 

The U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps units were stationed 
in the Canal Zone at Rodman Naval Station. The U.S. Air Force bases 
were located at Howard Air Force Base, adjacent to Fort Kobbe and 
Albrook Air Force Base near Fort Clayton. 

All U.S. military units in the Canal Zone were fully operational, 
functioning as ready reaction combat forces, operating with 
continuous, highly motivational combat training and support, in 
tandem with each other, to protect and defend the Canal Zone, 
Central and South America, and all its environs. The USSOCOM 
was a power house of U.S. military strength and powerful from top 
to bottom not to be challenged by any foreign government or local 
insurgency in any way shape or form. 

It was heavy military business through and through, ready to 
completely gear up and move out for full combat operations and strike 
at a moment's notice without haste at any location in the Canal Zone, 



100 Bud Monaco 




Panama, Central and South America. The USSOCOM could strike 
from land, sea, or air, with devastating fire power, bringing the full 
striking force of the U.S. American military down on any 
aggressions by foreign or local insurgencies quickly and efficiently. 
Presently in today's new military operations, the USSOCOM is 
now called the U.S. Garrison-Miami Southern Command. Panama 
was the USSOCOM's home for much of the twentieth century. But 

with the new treaties 
between the U.S. and 
Panama, a complete 
removal of American 
Forces was done and put 
into effect in the year 
2000. The Command 
Headquarters was moved 
to Miami, FL, in 1997. 
The new facilities features enhanced anti-terrorism capabilities and 
are prepared to endure a Category 5 hurricane. There are numerous 
other commands and units that support the new command which 
includes the Special Operations Command South, Marine Forces 
South, the 525th Signal Command, and the 742nd Military 
Intelligence Battalion. 

Louie, Carl, and I, along with SSGT Packardie, dismounted from 
the vehicle that brought us to Fort Kobbe. Bob Krueger had been 
dropped off at Fort Clayton. I wouldn't see Bob for another month 
during a detail that took me to Fort Clayton. 

Louie, Carl, and I were standing in front of the Headquarters 
and Headquarters Company building taking in the surrounding 
Battalion area, looking around like tourists when SSGT Packardie 
says, "Welcome to the puzzle palace," meaning headquarters in Army 
jargon, "Stop gawking like Chinamen, grab your gear and let's bust a 
move inside to get you two signed into your new unit." Carl was 
directed to B Company to sign in over there. 

First stop was at the HHC Training room, and then to the HHC 
Company Clerks office, which was part of the HHC Company 
Commander's and the First Sergeant's offices. We showed our 
orders to the company clerk and he officially signed us in to HHC as 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 101 



members of the 4.2" mortar platoon, which SSGT Packardie 
happened to be the 4.2" mortar platoon sergeant-in-charge. Louie 
and I were designated 1 IB Infantry and 1 IC Mortarmen because our 
military occupation specialties (MOS), designated us as such from 
our Fort Polk training. That was a good assignment, which we would 
learn more about soon. 

Next we reported to the office of the HHC's first sergeant, which 
was IstSGT Reymeres, who was a stract, twenty year, highly 
decorated, career lifer with a combat tour in Korea and two combat 
tours in Vietnam during his time in service. 

Top, as the IstSGT was called, being the Top Dog enlisted man 
in the Company, was a real decent guy and absolutely nothing like 
the jerk IstSGT we dealt with in AIT. But he did not take any shit 
from anyone at any time for any reason. He was a soldier's soldier 
through and through. He always showed respect for the soldiers 
under his command who followed orders properly, did their 
jobs without being a horse's ass, and expected nothing but 
respect in return. 

IstSGT Reyes was one tough soldier, small in stature, having 
a jutting, squared, rock jaw, with a Charles Atlas build busting out of 
his precisely starched and creased fatigue uniform. His hair was cut 
high and tight, looking like no one you would want to fuck with 
for any reason. When he said, "Jump," you replied with, 
"How high, IstSGT?" 

That was out of respect for him and the rank he held, not out of 
fear or reprisals. Top was intense, but feared and respected in equal 
measure. He was approaching retirement soon and did not want any 
cherry, fucking new guys (FNGs), causing him any problems that 
would reflect on him. In the Army, shit always ran downhill through 
the chain of command, and if the shit was running downhill towards 
Top, you could bet your sweet cheeks he would have the shit running 
downhill right onto your raggedy ass. 

Stepping up to the front of his desk, Louie and I came to 
attention and sounded off sharply, "Private Monaco, Private 
Chandler, reporting as ordered, IstSGT." He told us to stand at ease 
and proceeded to tell us what was expected of us as soldiers assigned 
to HHC, not to be slackers or gold bricks, follow orders, do our duty 



102 Bud Monaco 



properly, get a haircut, and that was it. We then were directed by 
the IstSGT into the Commanding Officer of HHC office. 

Now that Army Captain, the CO of HHC, we soon found out, 
was a total, useless, and complete Army officer asshole. He caused a 
lot of unnecessary grief for all the soldiers assigned to HHC under 
his command by pulling rank and just being a cheap-shot nit-picking 
jerk. We later found out that the IstSGT, all the NCOs, the officers of 
HHC, the other company commanders, and the Brass at Battalion 
Headquarters could not stand that guy at all. They all hated his guts. 
They never even invited him to the Officers Club for drinks or dinner 
ever. Over the next few weeks we quickly found out why. 

He was originally commissioned as a tin-horn, shake-and-bake 
made, brown bar second lieutenant, right out of some chicken shit 
college Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), derogatively called, 
Rotten Old Toilet Cleaners. He sure fit that moniker to the max. Only 
due to his time in service, over a few years, was he promoted to first 
lieutenant, and then to captain, definitely not for any measure of 
being a real soldier. He was bounced around numerous commands 
and wound up in Panama only because they needed officers here, 
and they had no place else to send him until they found a way to ship 
his worthless ass out of that outstanding Infantry unit. 

I remember that Captain's name quite clearly, but I will not 
mention it, as I do not want to tarnish the input of this book, and this 
is a real stretch for me to be concerned with tarnishing my input. 
Ha, you'll see. He was derisively called many things behind his back, 
as generally speaking, no one could stand to look him in the face or 
show the least bit of respect for him. He only lasted as CO of HHC 
for a short while. The Brass eventually ran his ass out of the 
Battalion, shipping him off to Vietnam to become someone else's 
problem. He was surely an officer who would probably wind up 
getting his ass fragged in Vietnam, and no one would bat an eye or 
lose any sleep over his loss. Sounds hard and unbecoming, but there 
were plenty of jerks like him in the Army and the other 
military services. Most men like him did not have long or 
prosperous military careers. 

Continuing on, Louie and I entered his office, came to attention 
in front of his desk, sounding off crisply, "Private Monaco, Private 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 103 



Chandler, reporting as ordered, sir." He was sitting in his high backed 
chair, looking like ten pounds of shit in a five pound sack under his 
not so sharply pressed fatigue uniform. 

He was shabby looking, almost skinny, with no muscle 
showing whatsoever. He looked like a poor excuse for an Army 
officer. He barely acknowledged us, as the asshole he was, acting 
like King Shit the Ragman, with his pompous ass sitting behind the 
desk trying to look important. 

When he did eventually look up at us, he had a face that 
belonged on a ferret, with two beady, squinting eyes, looking at us 
from behind bent wire rim glasses with coke bottle lenses, two thin 
no-lips that looked like pieces of crooked string attached to his face, 
and with a little squeaky rat like voice he said, "That will be all." The 
prick never even returned our salutes and just sat there full of shit 
like a Christmas goose. We saluted, did an about face, left his office 
gladly, and met SSGT Packardie outside of the Company Clerk's 
office for our next processing in procedures. 

SSGT Packardie then took us back to the Training room, 
located in the same HHC building, which was also known as the 
Operations room during combat or combat training operations. The 
Training room kept the records for a soldier's physical training 
information, issuing a soldier's individual weapon and a soldier's 
weapons qualifications. The records were kept on file cards and 
secured in a file drawer for every soldier, officers and NCOs included, 
and were updated frequently. Later during my assignment to HHC, 
I became the Training room sergeant in charge of all the HHC and 
the Battalion's training records. That would be a real good 
assignment which would be a big part of my duty at Fort Kobbe. The 
Training room was also responsible for setting up the daily training 
schedule for HHC and the Battalion, as well as keeping the HHC 
Company roster up to date every day. There was a lot of things going 
on in the Training room all the time, and it was a highly sought 
after position to be assigned there. 

Next, we were taken to the Armorer's vault, located in the same 
HHC building, where the HHC weapons were kept under heavy lock 
and key. The vault was an enclosed, large safe, forty by forty feet 
square, with three-inch thick steel walls and an iron door with a heavy 



104 Bud Monaco 



iron bar across it that would be padlocked down tight when the 
armorer was not present. 

The HHC Armorer's vault contained an unbelievable arsenal of 
weapons which were individually assigned to all the soldiers of HHC 
and Battalion Headquarters. The three line Companies of A, B, and 
C had their own individual Armorer's vaults that were located in their 
own Company Headquarters buildings, which contained a similar 
arsenal of weapons. 

There were hundreds of M-16 rifles, hundreds of M-7 
bayonets, a hundred M-1911 .45 caliber pistols, dozens of sawed off 
.12 gauge shotguns, a dozen M-60 machine guns, a dozen M-79 
grenade launchers, two M-2 .50 caliber machine guns, two M-lAI 
3.5" bazookas, and a dozen shoulder fired M-72 LAW anti-tank 
rockets. All the thousands of rifle and pistol ammo magazines, 
machine gun tri-pods and cleaning equipment were also kept in that 
vault. Every weapon was stored precisely, in perfect order, by each 
weapon's serial number, in locked racks attached to the walls, or 
locked down to the concrete floor. 

Every weapon had to be accounted for at a moment's notice, 
without question. It was a very high echelon operation going on in 
the Armorer's vault on a daily basis, and absolutely under strict 
control at all times, day or night. 

Louie and I were issued our standard M-16 rifles by the 
armorer, but we did not take possession of the rifles at that time. 
No weapons were taken out of the Armorer's vault under any 
circumstances unless it was for cleaning, which was done once 
a week, for qualifications or training at the rifle range, which was 
done once a month, for drill and ceremony practice, for parade 
assignments, and for any actual full combat alerts, which the 
Battalion would be called out for whenever there was a problem 
anywhere in the Canal Zone, or any location throughout Panama. 

Louie and I, along with a few other newly-assigned soldiers, 
would be taken to the live fire range, which was named Empire Range, 
out in some jungle area not too far away from Fort Kobbe, in the next 
day or so to re-qualify our weapon's training and to zero in our 
weapons with proper windage and elevation for our newly assigned 
M-16s. I would become good friends with the armorer, as he was 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 105 



also assigned to HHC and lived in the same barracks as the rest of us 
soldiers of HHC. We had some outrageous times involving 
the armorer many times over during our following time in 
country at Fort Kobbe. 

After the stop at the Armorer's vault, SSGT Packardie walked 
Louie and me over to the next processing in procedure, which was at 
the Battalion Personnel office, where every soldier's personal Army 
DD201 files were securely kept under lock and key, and where all 
Battalion military personnel orders were cut and processed. 

During all times of travelling from post to post and on furlough, 
a soldier carried his DD201 files with him, to be delivered, in person, 
to the designated Personnel office upon arriving at the next assigned 
duty station. If a soldier lost or misplaced his DD201 files, he would 
be in a world of shit, catching holy hell from Headquarters and the 
Personnel office. It was a real long pain in the ass process to replace 
a DD201 file for both the soldier, and the Personnel office. A soldier 
would wind up in deep limbo without his DD201 files. Every soldier 
kept his DD201 files in his possession at all times, and literally never 
lost track of it until it was secured in the Personnel office. 

The DD201 files were a manila folder in a sturdy brown 
envelope containing all the official Army papers that belonged to the 
individual soldier, including induction records, training records, 
personal information records, medical records, travel records, duty 
assignment records, promotion, and awards records. The Personnel 
office was in one of the other HHC buildings next to the main HHC 
building. I came to know all the soldiers in the Personnel office, as 
they were a designated platoon of HHC, and we all came under the 
same HHC command, basically living in the same barracks. 

SSGT Packardie then took us back to the HHC building, and 
we walked up the concrete stairs to the fourth floor, which was the 
barracks open bay area, where the 4.2" mortar platoon living 
quarters were located. He introduced us to our squad leader, an E-5 
Buck Sergeant Boyle, and he was now first in line for our chain of 
command. We would learn about the serious shortage of personnel 
throughout the military commands in the Canal Zone over the 
next few weeks. 

We were assigned our bunks, old WW II, OD painted, 



106 Bud Monaco 



steel-framed, wired-spring bases, with a thin, extremely well used, 
stained mattress rolled up at the head of the bunk, two wall lockers, 
and one foot locker, which were all precisely placed, in perfect 
military order, exactly lined up in tape measured distances around 
the sixty foot by sixty foot open bay barracks area. The placement of 
bunks and lockers were measured every day after first call, as well as 
the precise Army regulation making of each soldier's bunk. The 
platoon sergeant would inspect every swinging dick's bunk for exact 
regulations, which was the old Army adage of, tight enough to bounce 
a quarter off of it, and tape measure the spaces between bunks 
and lockers before we fell out into formation outside every 
morning for reveille. 

There were also other platoons that were assigned to that 
barracks bay, and the floor below us, including the Battalion truck 
drivers, called the support platoon, the HHC Company clerks, the 
HHC Supply room personnel, the HHC armorer, and HHC motor 
pool platoon soldiers. It was quite a diverse group of soldiers with 
many different job designations complimenting the daily operations 
of HHC. The other platoons of HHC, recon platoon, battalion 
medics, battalion radio and communications personnel, the battalion 
shooting team squad, the red eye missile squad, the personnel office 
platoon, the HHC cooks, and the airborne riggers platoon, were all 
located in the two other buildings that came under HHC operations. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 107 



Chapter 18 

Four Deuce Mortar Platoon 

After stowing our gear in our lockers, SGT Boyle took us down 
to the ground floor entrance to the 4.2" Mortar Platoon bay. 
The bay was a highly secured location, with steel mesh grates 
covering the windows, and a heavy duty steel door entrance, similar 
to the one on the Armorer's vault. The bay was thirty feet long by 
thirty feet wide, every inch freshly painted gun metal gray and 
hospital white, and so sparkling clean you could eat off the floor. 
Lined up in Army precision across one wall, looking devastatingly 
formidable, were four 4.2" Mortars that made a strong impact just 
set up sitting there with their huge cannon tubes, base plates and 
tri-pods gleaming with a light coat of gun oil, having a primordial 
shine glistening off of them. It was very impressive to see those 
four big guns for the first time. 

Louie and I had trained on the M-29A1 .81 mm mortars in AIT, 
with those cannons, or tubes as they were called, being three feet 
high, but these big babies were the Army's M-30 .107 mm 4.2" 
mortars, and the tubes stood five feet high. The gun tube rotated on a 
welded steel rotator attached to the M-24A1 base plate, with the 
M-53 gun sight attached to the tri-pod. Each gun weighed 675 pounds. 
It was one hell of an extremely lethal, crew-served weapon, and could 
bring down holy hell and death from above during live fire 
operations. We would begin training on those guns real soon, 
becoming proficient in operating every aspect of those big guns. 

The M-30 .107 mm 4.2" heavy mortar is an American rifled, 
muzzle-loading, high-angle-of-fire weapon, used for long-range 
indirect fire support for infantry units. The rate of fire could easily 
turn out eighteen rounds per minute at an effective range of 840 to 
7,400 yards. The M-329A2HE high explosive or the M-329A2WP 
white phosphorus ammo rounds had a maximum range of 7,400 yards 
and weighed twenty-two pounds each. 

The M-30 entered service with the US Army in 1 95 1 , replacing 
the previous M-2 .107 mm mortar. It was adopted due to the 
extended range and lethality in comparison to the previous M-2 . 107 
mm mortar, although the M-30, at 305 kilograms, was significantly 



108 Bud Monaco 



heavier than the 151 kilogram M-2. Due to the heavy weight, the 
mortar was most often mounted in a tracked mortar carrier of the 
M- 1 1 3 family. The vehicle mounted mortar was crewed by five people, 
the mortar sergeant track commander/gun commander, gunner, 
assistant gunner, loader, and vehicle driver. 

Ground mounting of the mortar was time consuming and 
strenuous, as a hole had to be dug for the base plate of the mortar to 
rest in, sandbags had to filled and placed around the base plate to 
stabilize it, and to protect the exposed ammunition. Also it decreased 
the accuracy of the weapon, as the recoil from firing caused the base 
plate to shift in the ground. The movement of the base plate also 
made the crew have to lay the gun back on the aiming stakes more 
often, causing a temporary lack of fire, while the weapon was 
repositioned and re-sighted back to its original reference point. 

In our HHC mortar platoon operations of the 4.2" mortar, it was 
never track-mounted. We busted ass every time, digging the holes in 
the ground, and operated the guns from a ground position during our 
live fire exercises. Louie and I would learn all about the operation, 
transportation, and maintenance of that formidable weapon, by the 
book, and by the numbers, during the next few weeks. 

The rest of the mortar platoon soldiers were working in the 
Mortar bay when we arrived and SGT Boyle introduced us to all of 
them. There were thirty available platoon designated slots for 
soldiers making up a HHC 4.2" mortar platoon. Due to shortages of 
available personnel, the 4.2" mortar platoon was usually never staffed 
to full strength. It was common throughout the USSOCOM due to 
the war in Vietnam, and the demand for soldiers needed to fill the 
ranks needed to facilitate and continue the war in Southeast Asia. 

The designated 4.2" mortar platoon slots at full strength would 
consist of twenty enlisted men, set up in five-man gun crew squads, 
one crew for each of the four guns, five E-5 sergeant squad leaders, 
one E-6 staff sergeant platoon leader, one E-6 staff sergeant assistant 
platoon leader, and one officer, being a 1st or 2nd lieutenant 
platoon commander. 

During the informal introductions, Louie and I answered all the 
usual questions about where we were from back in the World, which 
was the common Army slang for back home in the U. S., how long 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 109 

we were in for, and where we did our Basic Training and AIT. 

Our squad leader then took us over to the Supply room, and we 
were issued our towels, sheets, pillow cases, pillows, and of course, 
the ubiquitous, brown, wool Army blanket. In the Supply room, we 
were also issued our soldiering equipment of web gear, pistol belt, 
steel pot helmet, helmet liner, ammo pouches, medical bandage pouch, 
canteens, water proof bag, back pack, entrenching tool, gas mask, 
poncho, and mess kit, just like in Basic Training and AIT. 

The Supply room was located on the ground floor level of the 
HHC building, opposite the 4.2" Mortar Platoon bay. It took up about 
half of the ground floor area, and was just jammed from floor to 
ceiling, wall to wall, with supplies and Army gear. 

While being issued our new gear, we were introduced to the 
supply sergeant and two of the supply clerks who ran the Supply 
room. Those were guys you did not want to piss off, because 
anything you ever needed to soldier with would have to come through 
them. Literally, everything. The Supply room was holy 
ground. The Supply room guys were sacred cows, and no one 
fucked with those guys. 

The only other sections on the ground floor of HHC building 
were the Day room, which doubled as a training room for Army 
training films, and the HHC Post Office with mailboxes, which each 
individual soldier had his own assigned little mailbox that could be 
opened by a simple letter combination. The Mail room was run by 
one soldier, whose designation was the mail clerk, and he surely was 
also a guy no one wanted to piss off as well, or you would be sucking 
eggs looking for your mail that he could hold back or hide on you, 
which every soldier looked hungrily for every day. Mail call was 
a top priority all the time. 

It was now near dinner mess call time. Louie and I, along with 
the other mortar platoon soldiers, went upstairs to store our new gear, 
wash up a bit, and then headed down to the second floor, and entered 
the HHC mess hall for the first time. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! Ill 



Chapter 19 



The HHC mess hall was a very large area, taking up just about 
half of the second floor. There were tables and chairs precisely 
lined up like soldiers in formation, covering three quarters of the 
mess hall, where the enlisted men and NCOs ate their food. There 
was a smaller section up at the front, cordoned off with waist-high 
separators, which was used only by the officers. The tables in that 
section were covered with table cloths and served by the mess hall 
personnel, mainly civilian San Bias Indians supervised by the Army 
mess hall cooks. No enlisted man was allowed to cross that threshold 
unless invited in by an officer. We had already learned about the high 
degree of separation between officers and enlisted men, and the 
pecking order of soldiers was very evident in every Army or 
any other military mess hall. 

The mess hall serving line was set up with stations holding trays, 
glasses, and eating utensils. Each soldier would collect up his food 
tray and utensils walk along down the thirty foot long, 

cafeteria-styled, stainless steel 
and glass food service serving 
stations, having his food served 
onto his tray by the cooks 
standing behind the stations. The 
Army cooks were always dressed 
clean and sharp, with their white 
hats, white t-shirts, and white 
pants. The cooks did a pretty 
good job of taking care of our 
food needs, and we came to 
know them very well, as they were also assigned to HHC 
living in the same barracks. 

The actual food processing and cooking was done in the rear of 
the serving stations and contained long food processing tables, huge 
mixing machines that could mix hundreds of pounds of food 
material at a time, large ovens, broilers, large exhaust hoods and fans, 
gigantic walk in coolers and freezers, numerous refrigerators, and a 
half-dozen, very big sinks to wash the trays, dishes, utensils, and the 
never-ending stacks of pots and pans. 




112 Bud Monaco 



One wonderful and outstanding thing we learned was there was 
no KP duty in any of the military posts throughout the Canal Zone. 
The USSOCOM had created jobs for the indigent San Bias Indians, 
which were the inhabitants of the San Bias Islands off the Pacific 
Coast of Panama, and they were part of the population of Panama. 
They did all the grunt work of kitchen patrol, including peeling 
potatoes, preparing food, washing the food trays, dishes, utensils, 
pots and pans, cleaned all the ovens, broilers, taking out 
the garbage, and mopping and polishing all the floors in the mess 
hall three times a day. 

They were paid some cheap, menial labor fee, of maybe five 
dollars a day, and they loved it. They had nothing to start with, as the 
Panamanians treated them like third-class citizens, if at all. 
They had no jobs or income, and they were generally outcasts 
in Panamanian society. 

This situation was like manna from above for us, as no soldier 
had to do KP duty, and we reveled not having to work that brutal 
detail. The San Bias Indians were of very short stature. None of them 
were taller than five foot three, and had dark brown Indian skin, with 
pitch-black, bowl-shaped cut hair. They all had these big, wide, spread 
out feet and toes, as they never wore shoes. They only wore foam 
rubber flip flops when working in the mess hall, which was demanded 
by the mess sergeant for sanitary reasons. Only one or two of them 
spoke minimum English to translate for the cooks. Actually, they 
didn't need much direction, were locked into their jobs, and did these 
jobs perfectly. Surely a lot better than any dog face soldier would 
have been doing that brutal duty. 

They were absolutely industrious little guys and did the job 
wantonly with outstanding results. A few of these San Bias Indians 
also were allowed into the barracks, and overnight they spit shined 
every soldier's combat boots and dress shoes for a paltry amount of 
five dollars a month from each soldier, which was taken out of our 
pay every month. It was well worth every dollar for damn sure, 
and no soldier ever cried about the cut in pay, which a soldiers' 
monthly pay wasn't much to begin with. 

Overall, the food was not bad, always pretty palatable and 
decent, with a different food type for lunch and dinner every day, 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 113 



although the menu rotated with the same food type every third week. 
Breakfast was generally the same fare with eggs, pancakes, toast, 
cereals, and the rest of the usual breakfast foods. 

Another facet of Army life we quickly learned about was that 
whenever an officer entered the mess hall, or any barracks bay, office 
or room at any time, the first soldier to see him would holler out, 
'Attention," and everyone would have to immediately stop what they 
were doing and jump to attention. There was the constant scraping of 
chair legs and tables grinding across the cement floor of the mess 
hall. The officer would then return the notice saying, 'As you were," 
and every one would resume what they were doing. 

In the mess hall this was a pain in the ass trying to eat, having 
numerous officers entering at different times, and the soldiers doing 
the routine over and over again during mess call. Some of the less 
rank-conscious officers, and there were not a lot of them, would group 
up together by the mess hall door, and walk into the mess hall 
together, so that the routine didn't cause the soldiers to have to do it 
for each individual officer. There would be big trouble if an officer 
was not noticed, no matter what, so we had to suck it up and deal 
with that time honored Army tradition during every mess call. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 115 



Chapter 20 

Learning The Ropes Of Army Garrison Life 

''Once You're Laying Flat On Your Back 
You Only Have The Option Of Looking Up/' 

After the mess hall dinner, the Army working day was over at 
Fort Kobbe. The officers and senior NCO lifers headed to their 
on or off base housing, and the garrison soldiers retreated to the 
sanctity of their barracks bays. It was nice that Fort Kobbe was on 
a working schedule from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and if a soldier was 
not assigned to any details or guard duty, he would have the rest 
of the night off to do what he wished. 

The lowering of the Flag, called retreat, would be sounded off 
over the PA system at precisely 5:00 p.m. every day. That military 
tradition was done on every American military base in the U. S. or 
overseas every day. When retreat sounded, if you were outside of a 
building, you had to come to attention facing the flag pole up on the 
hill at Brigade Headquarters and salute the colors as they were 
lowered by the soldiers on guard duty, while the music was 
being played. No exceptions. 

Any soldier not stopping what he was doing and saluting, or 
trying to run into a building, where you did not have to salute the 
colors, if a soldier got caught, he would be subjected to an Article 15, 
or other forms of punishment, in a heartbeat. The stoppage of life 
also included the civilians on base, and anyone driving a vehicle, 
military or civilian, would have to come to a complete 
stop until retreat was finished. The lifer career soldiers took 
that tradition very seriously. 

First thing Louie and I did, was start to organize our gear, by 
properly storing it in our lockers. One of the other 4.2" mortar 
platoon guys came over and showed us how the platoon sergeant 
wanted everything to be placed in our lockers, which would be 
inspected once a week. Everything had its proper place in a 
designated Army way. Uniform clothing and combat gear in one tall 
locker, personal clothing in the other tall locker, shaving gear, 
underwear, uniform decorations, and other personal items, 
properly placed in our footlocker. Boots and shoes were lined up in 
order under your bunk. 



116 Bud Monaco 



Then the morning routine was explained to us. The charge of 
quarters (CQ) soldier on duty would come into the barracks turning 
the lights on at 5: 15 a.m., go around to every soldier's bunk and be 
sure that he was awake. The CQ and the CQ desk were located 
outside the CO's office in the hallway, and once the office was closed, 
the CQ was in charge of the buildings and barracks. The CQ and a 
runner would hourly, during the night, walk the perimeter of the HHC 
buildings, check the Armorer's vault, the 4.2" Mortar bay, the 
Supply room, and any other bays or rooms in the building. 

The CQ would also do a walk through the barracks bays, 
making sure there were no fires, or anything else that could bring 
harm to the sleeping soldiers. Any soldier leaving the company area, 
or going off base on a pass, had to sign out, and on returning, sign 
back in. It was done to keep exact track of every soldier at all times. 
The CQ duties also included answering the phones and being ready 
to answer any calls from Brigade or Battalion Headquarters in case 
of a Combat Alert, which he would first call the CO, next the 
1st SOT and then run through the barracks waking everyone up. 
Everyone, in a monthly rotation, would have to do CQ duty. It was 
not the best of duty, but the good thing about it was, you would be off 
the following day to sleep after being awake the whole night. 

You then would make your bunk in Army precision, shit, shower, 
shave, and get dressed. Two different soldiers were designated every 
morning to clean the latrine, by washing out the sinks, hosing down 
the showers, cleaning the toilets and urinals, and mopping the latrine 
floor when everyone was done using it. And let me tell you this, most 
men are absolute goddamned pigs and slobs, hands down. The GI 
Party cleaning routine had to be done for sanitation's sake, or there 
would be spit, toothpaste gunk in the sinks, soap scum and hair in the 
showers, shit splayed all over the toilets, piss all over the floor by the 
urinals, and dirty, stinking clothes laying all over the place. Most 
soldiers were complete slobs and had to be controlled at all times. If 
not, it was usually collective punishment of some sort for everyone. 

There would also be different designated soldiers each morning 
who would sweep and mop the barracks bay floor, and two other 
soldiers who would carry the garbage can, called the GI can, 
downstairs to the dumpster, empty it, hose it down, wipe it out dry, 
and bring it back to the bay. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 117 



The GI can was a galvanized, iron-ribbed garbage can that was 
in every barracks bay, as well as numerously placed cans all around 
the company area. Every soldier learned the routine of taking care of 
the cans. Once the can was emptied, no one was allowed to put 
anything in it, and it would be turned upside down with the cover 
over the bottom, so no one could put any further garbage in it. If 
there was one speck of garbage in it, the platoon sergeant would have 
a shit-fit, and the platoon would have hell to pay. It would take 
forty-five minutes time to complete those morning duties. 

Now that Louie and I had finished storing our gear and were 
instructed about the morning wake-up rouUne, we were finally done 
for the day. We could now lie down on our bunks to rest a bit and 
gather ourselves mentally after a very long day of travelling and the 
many segments of being processed into HHC. 

There was a group of soldiers hanging around over in a corner 
of the bay juking and jiving, and there was music playing. Other 
soldiers were lying around on their bunks, or sitting on 
their footlockers writing letters home, smoking and joking, or 
squaring away their lockers. 

One of the soldiers that was hanging over in the corner, who we 
met in the Mortar bay earlier in the day, came over where Louie and 
I were lying on our bunks, and asked us bluntly, "Are you two FNGs 
lifers?" We both said, "Lifers? Hell no, we ain't no lifers! We're just 
here to do our time in service and get back to the World." He then 
said, "Are you dopers or juicers?" Louie and I looked at each other 
with caution and concern, not knowing just where the guy was 
coming from, and carefully considered our answer. 

I had never been much of a drinker in my teens, as the few times 
I did drink any booze, I got sick and puked my guts up. But I had 
smoked some reefer a couple of times back home for the first time 
with my lifelong friend Cash in his grandmother's basement, back in 
Chicago. The first time I smoked reefer with Cash, I really didn't 
feel much different, and I fell asleep on the couch, or maybe I just 
passed out and didn't know it. The second fime, I really did feel it, 
and found out what the high was like. I liked it. Those were the only 
times I had indulged in smoking weed. 

Now Louie, on the other hand, was a young black teenager who 
grew up in some south central St. Louis ghetto and had smoked dope 



118 Bud Monaco 



numerous times. Hesitating to answer the soldier, he then said to us, 
"Hey, it's OK, either way. I don't care, but if you two are dopers, you 
can come over by us in the corner to listen to some music, smoke 
some dope, and you're welcome to come hang with us. And if you're 
juicers, you can find some of these other guys to hang with. No 
problem. But let me tell you FNGs this. Around here, lifers are fucked, 
and juicers are square, just to let you know what's what." 
What a philosopher that guy was. 

So Louie and I looked at each other again smiling and said, 
"Well then, I guess we're dopers. Let's do it," as we walked over to 
the corner and were introduced around to the dozen or so soldiers 

hanging there. We sat 
down on a footlocker next 
to each other, and the other 
guys were all sitting 
around on beds and 
footlockers. Everyone 
seemed to have a can of 
soda that they were 
drinking. Some guys had 
their fatigue pants on, 
some had civilian clothes, shorts and sandals with no socks, and some 
of them were wearing t-shirts and Army boxer shorts. The music was 
being played on a record turn table that was hooked up to a small 
amplifier receiver through two small speakers. 

One of the guys sitfing on a bunk was rolling a joint, which they 
called a Johnson, and the other guys were passing around a Johnson, 
with every one taking a hit or two, then passing it to the next guy. 
When the guy next to me motioned to pass the joint to me, 
I hesitatingly looked at it, then at him, and he said, "Well are you 
gonna take this and take a hit or what?" Oh baby, here we go. So, 
I took the joint from him, took a hit, and passed it over to Louie. 
Bam! Right out the gate with that first toke and I am already feeling 
the effects of it. It was nice. Yoweee! Ooooweee! Ziiiiinnnnggggo! 
My head was spinning, and that was really something, as the weed 
I smoked with Cash back on the block was nothing like that. One of 
the guys said, "Hey, you FNG, how do you like that Panama Red? 
It's the best in the world, and there ain't nothing to compare with it 




DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 119 



except Thai Sticks, brother." I was pretty much speechless, 
zinging along, and just nodded my head, not even knowing what a 
Thai Stick was. I would never be the same. 

We continued to listen to the music. Now there wasn't a lot of 
conversation going on, as everyone else was getting into the music, 
taking a toke or two more. The Chambers Brothers hit song, 
''Time Has Come Today',' was playing on the turntable, and I had 
never heard music sound so good. That song is a long, drawn out 
classic, and at the end of the song they're singing, 'T/me," with the 
root beat of the song, and little by little, they slow it down with drum 
beats in between the word ''Time!' As the song comes to the end, it is 
going real, real slow, "Time, Time, Time!' with the drum matching 
the lyric, "Boom, boom, boom," in between the vocal. 

So I was spacing out on the reefer, kinda nodding off with the 
music dancing in my head, and I wound up leaning too far over the 
edge of the footlocker just as the last "Time" was sung, falling onto 
the concrete floor right on my ass. Bam! That sure brought me back 
to reality and all the guys are laughing their asses off saying shit like, 
"The Red knocked the FNG cherry right on his ass." So I gathered 
myself up, with Louie helping me stand up, and had to hilariously 
laugh out loud with the rest of the crew until I had tears in my eyes. 
That was a moment in my hfe that I would never forget, nor will I 
ever forget 'The Chambers Brothers' song, "Time Has Come Today!' 

As the laughter cooled down, and someone was changing the 
record, it brought a serene quietness over us. We then heard the static 
coming over the fort's PA system, and Taps began to play. Taps was 
the music signal for lights out and the day's end, as the somber bugle 
notes of Taps hauntingly cascaded over the Battalion area, paying 
tribute to the fallen soldiers of war. I never knew that there were 
actual lyrics for Taps, but there surely were. 

Fading light dims the sight 

And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright 

From afar drawing night 

Falls the night ^^^ -^ ^^^^^ ^^^^ ^^^ ^^^ 

From the lakes, from the hills, from the skies 
All is well, safely rest 
God is nigh. 



120 Bud Monaco 



Louie and I now had a real case of the dry mouth like we had 
never had before, and decided to go downstairs to get some soda. So 
we said so long for now to the guys. High as kites, we ambled down 
the stairs, winding up walking outside the barracks. We were still 
laughing our asses off, giggling like school girls, and as we were 
walking, we were leaning against each other so we wouldn't fall over, 
totally forgetting about why we went downstairs in the first place. 
Louie then said to me, in a real sincere voice, with his St. Louis, 
black man's drawl, "Ya' know Moneeeco. I think we're really 
gonna like this place." 

I say back at him, "I sure hope so, because we still have 
nineteen months to go, bro," and we continued to laugh together. 

We soon learned in the following weeks that soldiering with the 
3rd & the 5th would not be as enjoyable as that first day. We would 
find ourselves busting our balls out in the jungle, and constantly 
dealing with the insufferable, petty-ass Army bullshit of garrison life, 
very quickly. We located the soda machine, drank our sodas, made 
our way back to the barracks and our bunks, and quickly crashed 
into a heavy sleep for the rest of the night. 



DRAFTED: You^re In The Army Now ! 121 

Chapter 21 

First Call 

The next thing I knew, it was first call, and there was the CQ 
soldier standing over me kicking my bunk frame saying, "Let's 
go cherry. Get out of that rack right now. Formation in less than an 
hour." All the lights were on in the bay blazing bright, and it seemed 
like I had just fallen asleep moments ago. It was now 5:15 a.m., and 
the rest of the soldiers in the bay were all getting up and moving 
around in haste, to make their bunks, shit, shower, shave, and get 
dressed for the morning formation, roll call and reveille. 

I quickly did the routine, as some of the soldiers were sweeping 
and mopping the floors, and was then told that Louie and I had 
latrine cleaning duty, which had to be done immediately before we 
fell out into formation. Of course the FNG cherries got the shit detail 
on our first wake up call. No surprise there. 

Louie and I were shown what to do and quickly cleaned out the 
sinks, wiped down the mirrors, brushed out the toilets and urinals, 
and mopped the floors of the latrine. The latrine had a dozen sinks 
with mirrors, three full size urinals, and eight toilets with separators 
between them, but no doors on any of the stalls, and no toilet seats, 
just the bare toilet rim with a hand flusher. 

There was no privacy for taking a shit at all. I had gotten used to 
that in Basic and AIT, so it wasn't much of a stretch for me to deal 
with anymore. I never understood why there were no doors on the 
toilet stalls or seats on the toilets, but I figured it was to prevent 
soldiers from pulling their puds, or playing hide the weenie behind a 
closed stall door, and with no seats, it was easier to clean the toilets, 
and more sanitary, as most soldiers were pigs, and sanitation was a 
very high priority in an Army barracks. 

The platoon sergeant then made his appearance, inspecting the 
barracks, and the latrine, as we all made our way down the stairs out 
into the Battalion street, falling into formation with the rest of HHC 
soldiers. Each platoon of HHC formed up in their individual 
formations, squared off, and the squad leaders took roll call and head 
count, reporting the count to the platoon sergeant, who then reported 
the count to the IstSGT, who then reported the count to the CO. 



122 Bud Monaco 



"All present and accounted for, sir," was the command. Every 
swinging dick in the outfit was required to be present and on time for 
roll call. The only exceptions were for the company clerks. Training 
room personnel, and cooks. The roll call head count would be 
immediately sent by a runner to the Training room to be properly 
registered on the company roster, and then sent over to the Company 
Clerks office for the daily report to be filed. There were a 
lot of endless reports for every single thing that was done, 
literally, by the hour. 

The other line Companies of A, B, C, and Battalion 
Headquarters staff, were all lined up in formation in front of their 
designated areas in the same order, doing the same roll call head 
count. When everyone was accounted for, the Battalion CO, 
a lieutenant colonel, would holler out, "Companies, report," and one 
by one, the COs of each company would holler out in order, "HHC 
all present and accounted for, sir." "A Company all present and 
accounted for, sir." "B Company all present and accounted for, sir." 
"C Company all present and accounted for, sir." The battalion 
formation lined the street from end to end, and was quite a sight to 
see and hear for the first time, with eight hundred soldiers lined up 
in exact formation, and the COs and sergeants shouting 
out the commands. 

It was now precisely 6:30 a.m. on the dot. With the first sounds 
of static coming out of the PA system, the Battalion CO shouted out, 
"Battalion, attention!" The Company COs, in prescribed order, 
shouted out "HHC, attention," and the other COs followed suit, with 
each platoon sergeant joining in following the CO's command with, 
"Platoon, attention," sounding out throughout the battalion 
formation, and everyone came to attention. 

Then there was the unmistakable, air-shattering sound of the 
.75 mm artillery cannon being fired off from up on the hill at Brigade 
Headquarters, with a gigantic "Boom!" With the first notes of 
reveille blasting out of the PA system, the cacophony of orders 
sounded out again with the Battalion CO shouting out, "Battalion. 
Present arms," with the Company COs and sergeants shouting out 
the same in prescribed order. Reveille played through with its 
traditional, staccato bugle notes cascading over the battalion 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 123 



formation, as the selected flag detail soldiers on guard duty raised 
the flag at Brigade Headquarters. Welcome to the beginning of a new 
day of soldiering at Fort Kobbe. I never knew there were actual 
lyrics for the reveille song although they were never sung by anyone. 
I somewhat, vaguely remember. The Andrew Sisters, singing the 
lyrics in the song medley of, ''Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy Of 
Company 5," on the Laurence Welk Show or during a USO 
Tour with Bob Hope. 

/ can 7 get 'em up 

I can 7 get 'em up 

I can 7 get 'em up in the morning 

I can 7 get 'em up 

I can 7 get 'em up 

I can 7 get 'em up at all 

The Corporal's worse than the Privates 

The Sergeant's worse than the Corporals 

Lieutenant 's worse than the Sergeants 

And the Captain 's worse than 'em all. 

Once the flag was raised, and the reveille song ended, the 
commands for, "Order arms," were shouted out, and the command 
for, "Stand at ease," was given. Now the platoon sergeant gave the 
order for everyone to strip off our fatigue shirts, take off our soft 
baseball hats, and place them on the ground in front of each soldiers 
place in formation. At first, I did not know what was going on, but 
followed suit with the other soldiers. Looking around stupidly, one 
of the soldiers standing next to me said, "Well, cherry, I hope you are 
still in shape from AIT, because now we are going to do our daily run 
and physical training with the daily dozen." Damn, I completely 
forgot about having to do that every morning with everything 
else going on since my arrival. 

The platoon sergeant gave the command, "Platoon. Attention. 
Right face. Forward march." Starting to march after a few yards, the 
command was given, "Quick time, march," and everyone in the 
battalion was doing the same, and started to run in formation, in step, 
as the platoon sergeants started sounding off in cadence count, 
"Gimme your left, your left, your left right left." 



124 Bud Monaco 



There were many cadence calls used during marching or 
running in formations. We had learned many of them during our 
marches and runs in Basic and AIT, but we would learn more of 
them during these daily morning runs. 

"Ain't no need in going home, Jody got your girl and gone. 
Ain't no need in going back, now he's got your Cadillac. Ain't no 
need in feeling blue. Now he's got your sister too." 'Tf I die in a 
Russian War, bury me with a Russian whore." "Sound off, One two 
three four, one two, three four." "Army coffee is mighty fine. Looks 
like muddy water, tastes like turpentine." "Mama, Mama can't you 
see. What the Army has done to me." "Used to date a movie queen. 
Now I date my M- 1 6." There were endless cadence calls, as we learned 
them all day after day, and everyone would be designated to call 
cadence at one time or another. The catchy call and response 
cadence songs were one of the Army's ways designed to build 
camaraderie, break the monotony of physical training, keep soldiers 
in step, and help create Espirt de Corps among the troops. 

The songs also develop cardio-respiratory endurance, by 
forcing the troops to control their breathing during strenuous 
activities. They probably had their roots in European martial drum 
beats, once used to guide the speed at which infantry units travelled. 

As the Battalion Companies made their way out of the battalion 
street, we turned west and headed down the road to Kobbe Beach, 
which was a mile one way where the Bay of Panama and the Pacific 
Ocean met the jungle. It was no walk in the sun, and it was a grueling 
run to the beach, and back to the battalion area, covering 
the complete two miles. 

If any soldier fell out from exhausUon, or got sick from being 
hung over on booze or dope, no one blinked an eye or gave any 
concern in the least bit. We hopped over him and just kept running, 
leaving the fallen soldier by the side of the road. Following behind 
the formations was a half-ton Army ambulance, with two Army 
medics that would take care of any fallen soldier. Any fallen soldier 
would also have hell to pay from the IstSGT for not being able to 
complete the run and would be called on the carpet in Top's office, 
soon assigned to the next shit detail that came up. 

Did I mention that it was hotl I mean goddamned hot and it was 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 125 



ninety plus percent humidity around the clock. It was the jungle tropics 
of Central America, with the equator being just a few hundred miles 
south. If I thought it was hot in Kentucky and Louisiana, the tropical 
heat beat the hell out of that for sure. 

Arriving back at the battalion area after the run, we were not 
done yet. Now we had to do the Army daily dozen calisthenics in 
formation, by the numbers, sounding off in cadence count. All of this 
PT really knocked the snot out of a soldier every morning, but let me 
say that, the Battalion was in great shape, and ready to go to war in 
a heartbeat, in perfect physical shape. It was now only 7:30 a.m., and 
we had covered a lot of ground in just one hour. 

Finally, and surely well spent, we then put our fatigue shirts 
and hats back on, instructed to report to the 4.2" Mortar bay by 
8:30 a.m., fell out of formation with the platoon sergeants command, 
and it was time for breakfast mess call. 

Telling time in the Army was always referred to in military time 
starting at midnight being, "zero hundred hours, 0000," and 
sequentially adding the next hour, "0100 hours," for 1:00 a.m., 
following on with 11:59 p.m. being "2359 hundred hours." It still 
took some getting used to, even after having it beat into our skulls in 
Basic and AIT, and the hours of "1300 hours," 1:00 p.m., through 
"2359 hundred hours," 11:59 p.m., was still always confusing, 
making you count the time of hours on your fmgers to be sure you 
were on the right time, and never be late for nothing. Being late for 
anything was totally unacceptable for any reason, and you would be 
back on the carpet in the IstSGT's office. It was always a big 
learning curve every day in the Army. 

Some guys went back into the barracks to change their sweat 
soaked underwear, fatigue pants, and wash up. Those soldiers were 
used to the routine, and would wear dirty underwear and fatigues 
that were in their dirty laundry bags for PT, changing into clean 
fatigues after PT, to wear for the rest of the day. Being a FNG cherry, 
I didn't know about that, so I had to break out a clean set of fatigues 
and clean underwear. Always more learning curves. 

After breakfast mess call all the 4.2" mortar platoon soldiers 
quickly headed down to the 4.2" Mortar Platoon bay and started 
our work day. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 127 



Chapter 22 

FNGs: Fucking New Guys 

Arriving in the 4.2" Mortar bay after breakfast mess call, every 
one had a designated job to do, and it was bustling with activity. 
Louie and I were told by our squad leader that we would be assigned 
as ammo bearers for one of the four gun crews as our job 
designation, but there were plenty of other things to do that had 
nothing to do with bearing ammo. Bearing any ammo would not 
happen until the first live fire exercise, which was a week away. Our 
first training assignment was for the two of us to learn about the 
parts of the 4.2" mortar. Our squad leader explained the main parts 
of the gun. That was simple enough, as we already had previous 
.81 mm mortar training in AIT, and basically the mechanics of the 
guns were the same. There was the barrel or cannon, the tri-pod, the 
base plate, and the sight mechanism. He showed us how to dissemble 
one, and then we had to put it back together. No real brain surgery 
here and we learned the operation quickly. 

There was other activity going on in the bay with soldiers 
working, cleaning the other three guns, and applying a light coat of 
gun oil to them. Other soldiers were doing some painting of the bay 
walls and a section of the floor. There were footlockers containing 
back-up sights that were being cleaned and checked over to make 
sure they were operating properly, and there were the sighting poles 
arranged along one wall that the gun sight operator used to sight and 
zero the gun during live firing. 

The sighting poles were six feet long and three inches in 
diameter, painted in separate one foot sections of corresponding white 
and red paint. The sighting poles would be stuck in the ground a foot 
deep, fifteen yards out in front of the gun emplacement during live fir- 
ing. The gun sight operator would look through the gun sight, 
placing the cross hairs of the optics on a set section of the poles, using 
this to properly sight the gun, and have the fired mortar rounds land 
where they were supposed to land down range. Of course, there were 
some slackers who were pretending to be working, but weren't doing 
anything at all. That was until the platoon sergeant arrived. Then 
everyone found something to do, looking real busy and hard at work. 



128 Bud Monaco 



About two hours later, around 10:30 a.m., the platoon sergeant 
told Louie and me to come with him because he had a work detail for 
us to do. Yeah, here we go again, the FNG cherries get some shit 
work detail. We went up into our barracks bay, and he told us we 
were to wash and wipe down all the tops of the tall lockers, wet wipe 
all the window sills surrounding the bay, wet wipe down all the tops 
of the mirrors in the latrine, sweep, and mop the bay and latrine floor. 
The sweeping and mopping had already just been done three hours 
ago, but it was the Army way of doing a lot of shit detail work twice. 
He then said, "By the way, when you are done with all this, take the 
garbage can down behind the barracks where you will fmd a water 
hose connection. Get the hose from the Mortar bay work closet, and 
scrub it out so it shines like new. And keep in mind. I will be back in 
two hours to inspect everything, and you two better do a good job or 
you can forget about lunch mess call." 

Louie and I got started with our GI party, and cleaned 
everything, by the numbers, exactly like the SSGT told us to do. It 
was not hard work, but it was scut work, and there would be a lot 
more of that going on over the next nineteen months. Details of that 
sort were one of the mind-boggling banes of Army life, with routines 
of that nature being repeated repeatedly many times over during our 
time in service, and it wasn't just the FNGs getting the scut work. 

Every solider would be assigned daily details as such. No one 
was exempt. That is, except the NCOs of E-5 sergeant rank or above. 
They never had to do scut work. Only the ranks of E-4 specialist 
fourth class (SP4), the E-3 private first class (PFC), or corporals, and 
the E-2 or E-1 privates, had the pleasure of such scut work details. 
I won't even mention officers. We hardly even saw the officers 
except during roll call or mess call. They didn't do dick, and what 
they did, whatever it was that they did, they didn't even do any of 
that. You know what I mean? The SSGT eventually showed up in the 
barracks two hours later, did his inspection, told us we did a good 
job, and we could head down to the mess hall for lunch. He instructed 
us that after lunch we were to report back to the 4.2" Mortar bay. 

Once I had figured out that enlisted men in the Army of lower 
rank shoveled shit, and the NCOs handed out the shovels, I made my 
mind up right then and there, that / was going to make some rank, 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 129 

and get me some of those three gold chevron sergeant stripes as soon 
as I could. There was absolutely too much shit to shovel in the Army, 
and / wasn't going to be one of the soldiers shoveling it for the 
next nineteen months. Fuck that. 

I had already realized during Basic and AIT that you could not 
fight the Army. The Army owned you, and any soldier of higher rank 
than you made sure the shit ran downhill onto you, with him 
standing on the top of the hill. The old adage that rank had its 
privilege was clearly evident everywhere in the Army. There were 
plenty of soldiers of higher rank to go around, with plenty of 
promotions available for those who earned it, and I was going to be 
one of them, come hell or high water. Goddamned fucking right for 
sure. If you wanted to survive the best you could with the least amount 
of scut work or hassle, you just had to go along with the program, 
make some rank with timely, and available promotions, or you 
would continue to be in a world of shoveling shit, hands down, until 
the day you were discharged. 

After lunch we headed down to the Mortar bay, and all the 
platoon members were told to report to the Day room to watch a 
training film. One of the Training room privates had an 8 mm film 
projector and viewing screen set up there, and the time-killing 
training film was about proper hygiene. Like anyone could give two 
shits about hygiene. A lot of the guys were slobs from the git go. 
There were no squad leaders present, so no one paid any attention to 
the film. The Training room private running the film had zero control 
over the platoon in that environment and he didn't give a rat's ass 
anyway. It was a time killer that he was enjoying as well. Everyone 
was just sitting around talking, smoking, joking, and playing grab 
ass until the film was finished, which took about an hour. 

To kill some more time, some of the guys conned the private, 
who they all knew well, and did not have to do much convincing at 
all as he was a HHC soldier living in the same barracks bay, to run 
the film a second time so we wouldn't have to go back to the Mortar 
bay just yet. It was just another way of ghosting that was part of 
everyday Army garrison life. Learning how to properly ghost 
without getting caught became a mandatory way of garrison life that 
was a big part of the overall learning curve. Ghosting and getting 



130 Bud Monaco 



over were cleverly acquired traits. We would spend time viewing 
training films every week. It was part of the Battalion Training 
Program, which was designated in some obscure Army Training 
Manual, but it was better than doing scut work details and a 
break from the continuous Army bullshit that we had to 
contend with every day. 

When the second running of the training film finished it was 
nearing 4:00 p.m., 1600 hours in Army time, and we all headed back 
to the Mortar Platoon bay. Seeing that it was going to be time for 
dinner mess call at 5:00 p.m., the platoon sergeant told us we could 
all go up to the barracks bay to do maintenance on our soldiering 
gear to finish off the days work. Yeah, sure, like anyone did any 
maintenance on their gear. Of course, everyone took some of their 
gear out of the lockers, putting the gear on their bunks, just to look 
like there was maintenance going on, in case the platoon sergeant 
showed up to check on us. He didn't, and everyone continued to 
ghost some more, just dicking around until mess call. 

Mess call time arrived. We filed through the chow line, ate our 
food, retired to the barracks bay, and the lifers and officers left the 
company area to go to their on or off-base housing until the 
following morning's roll call and reveille, leaving the barracks 
soldiers to their own designs for the rest of the night. 

The evening in the barracks bay continued just like the previous 
night. The juicers sneaked their beer in, savoring it with gusto, and 
the dopers congregated over in the corner, playing the stereo, and 
firing up the first Johnsons of the day. There was other activity by 
some soldiers, as they were gathering up their laundry bags to bring 
down to the laundry, dry cleaner, or tailor shop, while others sat around 
writing letters home. A few soldiers had passes giving them 
permission to leave the company area to go off base heading to 
downtown Panama City to drink, and maybe bang a hooker on 
K Street. K Street was the main place to go in Panama City. 
Louie and I, a week later, would make our first trip to the 
infamous locafion. 

We smoked a little, listened to some music, shooting the shit 
until lights out. During that time a guy called Jonesy, who was called 
one of the old timers as any soldier with more than six months' fime 



DRAFTED: YouVe In The Army Now! 131 

at Fort Kobbe was called, told Louie and I about being real careful 
about getting high. He told us, in no uncertain words, not to ever get 
caught holding any dope in our pockets, and not to put loose joints in 
our pockets which might leave any minute trace amount of reefer in 
the bottom of a pocket that the Army Criminal Investigative Division 
(CID), or any lifer could fmd. Also, not to put any weed in our 
lockers. If we had any contraband, to keep it under our mattresses or 
in our boots under our bunks, which anyone had access to, and you 
could not be blamed for it if it was found by any CID investigators or 
lifers during a scheduled inspection, or a surprise inspection, which 
could be at any time of the day or night. 

The old timer also told us that usually the lifers didn't care what 
anyone did on their own time. Just don V get caught, and don't let the 
lifers see any dope, dope residue, dope paraphernalia, or you doing 
any dope. He said that most of the lifers kind o/ turned a blind eye to 
it all as they all had their own vices to hide. You just had to be ready 
to do your duty during the working day or at night, if you were on 
guard duty, or some other petty night scut detail, which were just as 
numerous as daytime scut details. 

The Army took drug use as a very serious offense and, any 
soldier caught possessing or using drugs, would be punished severely, 
with punishment ranging from an Article 15, loss of rank in grade, a 
Summary, Special, or even a General Court-Martial offense under 
the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). A soldier could 
actually wind up in the Army stockade doing time in jail for even a 
minor offense. It was serious business, and you did not ever want to 
get caught with contraband of any sort. That held true on all military 
bases anywhere in the Canal Zone, as well as anywhere in Panama 
City or in Panama proper. Everyone understood that thoroughly to 
the maximum, and there were only one or two guys that ever got 
caught that we knew about. Louie and I would be sure to heed that 
warning and it would never be either one of us getting caught over 
the next nineteen months. No doubt. 

The following morning after roll call, reveille, the beach run 
and PT, SSGT Packardie told Louie and me to fall out, as the rest of 
the platoon went to breakfast mess call. He told us that we would be 
on a cleaning detail after mess call, and we would be sweeping and 



132 Bud Monaco 



mopping the hallways, foyers, and the stairs of the CO's office. 
Training room, and Armorer's vault. Sure, we knew by now that the 
FNGs were going to get the scut work details until the next batch of 
new FNGs showed up, and were assigned to HHC, or, by means of 
fair play, other soldiers would get back into normal rotation for 
details once the FNGs paid their dues. So, after mess call we 
collected up the brooms, buckets, mops, and went to work. 

The cleaning detail would only take about an hour or so at the 
most, but Louie and I were already learning how to milk a detail by 
taking our sweet-ass time about it, and stretching it out over the next 
three hours, taking numerous breaks as we thought were needed. 
Yeah, we were learning how to ghost quickly for sure. When we 
were finished, we headed down to the Mortar bay, and low and 
behold, it was time for lunch mess call. Bam! Another morning was 
now behind us with another afternoon to go. One day at a time was 
the only way you could look at it when you still had damn near 
nineteen months to go in your tour of duty. 

After lunch, it was back down to the Mortar bay for the 
continuing jobs of equipment and gun maintenance. A couple of guys 
were given permission to go to the Personnel office to take care of 
some sort of paperwork in their 201 Files, and the platoon sergeant 
sent a couple of guys to the barber shop for haircuts. 

The hair cutting thing was a never-ending, running gun battle in 
the Army between enlisted men and the sergeants and officers in 
command. Any soldier's hair that was not cut weekly, high and fight 
by strict Army standards, would be sent off to the barber shop in the 
same building where the laundry and tailor shop was located. 
Soldiers would always try to skirt the hair issue on a regular basis, 
coming up with the lamest excuses you could imagine, but the minute 
a soldier's hair was not cut short enough for Army standards, they 
were sent off to the barber shop. And guys, time after fime after fime, 
would argue about haircuts with the sergeants and officers, and never 
see the light that it was a no-win situation. Some guys knew how to 
skirt the issue a bit by following orders, going to the barber shop, sit 
around for a half an hour reading a magazine, but not getting their 
hair cut, and lying to the sergeant about it later. Others would 
vehemently argue about it, disobey the order, and get fucked royally 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now ! 133 



for disobeying a direct order, winding up with an Article 15, or the 
next shit detail at the least. Just follow the goddamned orders. Go get 
your fucking haircut and live with it. That's the way it was, and 
there was no getting around it, period. Many continued to try, 
but to no avail. 

The afternoon quickly passed and it was time for dinner mess 
call. Then back up to the barracks to kill off another night. It was the 
common daily routine, which I would endure many times over while 
doing garrison duty during my nineteen months at Fort Kobbe. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 135 

Chapter 23 

Empire Range: The Shooting Gallery 

"Army Rifle Training Teaches A Soldier How To Kill Willingly. 
This Is Called Patriotism.'' 

Saturday of my first week in country came, and usually Saturday 
was HHC inspection day. Saturday duty only lasted until lunch 
mess call, and then everyone would be off duty until Monday 
morning. After the regular morning routines, we would all head back 
into the barracks to tighten up our bunks, clean and layout our 
military gear on our bunks, straighten out our standing lockers and 
footlockers, clean the barracks with more sweeping and mopping, 
and be ready to stand inspection before lunch mess call. The 
company commander, platoon sergeant, and squad leaders would then 
come into the barracks inspecting each soldier's area as we stood 
at attention next to our lockers. 

On that particular Saturday, instead of standing inspection, Louie 
and I, along with a half-dozen other newly assigned soldiers, were 
scheduled to go to the rifle range for our weapon qualifications that 

was mandatory for new HHC 
troops. So after mess call, we 
put on our web gear, steel pot 
helmets, went to the Armorer's 
vault to sign out our 
designated M-16s with two 
ammo magazines, form up in 
the company street, and a truck 
driver from the support platoon 
picked us up with a duce and a half truck to take us to Empire Range. 
One of the squad leaders, SGT Boyle, would be the range instructor 
during our qualifications, and he rode in the front seat with the driver, 
as the eight of us climbed into the canopy-covered bed of the truck. 
There were already three wooden boxes of ammo loaded in the 
truck bed, and we were off to the rifle range, not having to 
stand inspection that morning. 

Arriving at Empire Range, which took about thirty minutes, with 
the range located off base about six miles from Fort Kobbe in an area 




136 Bud Monaco 



of cleared-out, uninhabitable jungle, set up in a very large, actually, 
a gigantic area, as the range was used by the Army, Marines, Navy, 
and the Air Force for all aspects of live fire training exercises. 
The rifle range we used occupied only a small portion of 
the complete range. 

Empire Range was used for many aspects of live fire training, 
including small arms rifles and pistols, hand grenades, M-79 
grenade launchers, light anti-tank rockets, .81 mm and 4.2" mortars, 
.75 and .105 mm field artillery guns, 106 recoilless rifles, M-60 and 
.50 caliber machine guns, helicopter gunships, C-130 Hercules Air 
Craft used as aerial platforms flying under a thousand feet firing 
M-60 mini-guns called Tuff the Magic Dragon.' The Air Force used 
the range as well for fighter jet bombing runs, flying right down 
on the deck, with missiles, rockets, and five hundred pound 
bomb runs, blowing the living shit out of old hulks of tanks, trucks, 
and targets down range. 

Empire Range was used for the whole arsenal of military 
weapons in Central America. The partially paved, narrow road to the 
range, wound through the jungle for a few miles, before we arrived 
at the staging area. There was a large parking area for trucks, and 
there was a medic vehicle, with two HHC medics on station standing 
by, prepared for medical assistance in case someone was to 
accidently shoot himself, or shoot someone else. 

Our squad leader had us fall out into a single line formation 
with our M-16s and he inspected each weapon individually, making 
sure it was in proper working order. He then gave out instructions 
covering range safety, and the proper loading of magazines with live 
ammo. He explicitly told us not to put a loaded magazine into our 
weapons until the command was given once we were on the firing 
line. We then unloaded the ammo boxes from the truck, breaking 
them open with the live ammo rounds being in separate smaller boxes 
holding fifty rounds to a box. Removing the ammo from the boxes, 
we were instructed to load eighteen rounds into both of our 
magazines. It was common practice to only load eighteen rounds 
into a magazine, although the magazine could hold twenty rounds. 
This was done so as not to put too much pressure on the magazine 
spring feeding the rounds into the chamber of the rifle, which could 
cause the rifle to jam. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 137 



There were no other military personnel at the range this 
particular day except two new officers from Battalion Headquarters 
who showed up right after we arrived. They had their own jeep driver 
take them to the range for their weapon qualifications. So we had the 
range to ourselves. The SGT inspected the officers .45 pistols, and 
instructed them to load their pistol magazines with ammo, going 
through the range procedures with them, which was pretty much 
perfunctory. The officers fired off a single magazine of ammo down 
range at the targets that were set up in front of a large berm about 
fifty yards away. The SGT quickly signed and marked off their 
training cards with perfect scores, as was customary for officers, and 
they were on their way, leaving the range, probably heading over to 
the Officers Club for drinks to kill the rest of their day. Officers knew 
how to ghost yw^r as well as any enlisted man. 

It was now our time to move up to the firing line, and the SGT 
shouted out all the commands, by the numbers, by the book, "Load 
magazines. Ready on the right. Ready on the left. The firing line is 
ready," as we took our firing positions, loaded the magazines into 
our M-16s, and he gave the command, "Commence firing." All of us 
commenced firing our M-16s, using up both loaded magazines, as 
we fired off all our rounds of ammo at the paper targets down range. 
Then the SGT gave the command, "Cease fire and clear all 
weapons," as he worked his way down the line checking to make 
sure all weapons were cleared before he commanded, 
"The firing line is clear," and we were instructed to step back 
from the firing line. 

We had a ball. Firing the M-16 was always a pretty good time, 
as we were able to shoot the shit out of the targets down range. We 
loaded up two more magazines each and repeated the same routine. 
Then we laid our weapons down on the firing line and walked down 
range to look at our targets to see if we actually hit them. Almost all 
of the rounds everyone fired off found their marks on the paper 
targets, and the SGT marked off our weapon qualification training 
cards giving everyone an expert rifle marksmanship score. Now we 
would be able to wear our Expert Marksmanship silver pins on our 
khaki or our dress green Army uniforms. 

All of this firing range exercise only took about an hour or so. 
The SGT instructed us to put our weapons in the back of the deuce 



138 Bud Monaco 



and a half truck, and take a break as the smoking lamp was lit. Then, 
guess what? It was only 10:30 a.m., and we had ninety minutes to 
kill before heading back to Fort Kobbe. It was time to do some more 
ghosting. We loved it, having nothing to do but smoke and joke while 
the rest of the guys back at the base were still standing inspection. 

Around noon, we climbed back into the truck, headed back to 
Fort Kobbe, cleaned our weapons, signed them back into the 
Armorer's vault, and had the rest of the day off, not having to report 
for duty until Monday morning. Not a bad day. Not a bad day at all. 

A little while later, some of the guys invited Louie and me to go 
to Kobbe Beach and hang out for the rest of the afternoon. We put on 
some civilian shorts, borrowing some sandals, as we had not yet 
bought our own, and leisurely walked the same PT running route to 
Kobbe Beach. This was our first real look at the beach, as when we 
did the PT run we only went into the parking lot, turned around, and 
ran back not seeing the actual beach area. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 139 




Chapter 24 

Off Duty Delights 

Kobbe Beach was beautiful. It was laid out one hundred yards 
wide from north to south, with the Bay of Panama and the 

Pacific Ocean shining a magnificent deep azure blue that was 

stunning. To my surprise, there was a twenty-five foot tall 

galvanized wire fence built in a semi-circle arch attached to angled 

steel beams from one end of the 
beach area to the other to 
protect any swimmers. That was 
called the Shark Fence or Shark 
Net. That was necessary as there 
were man-eating sharks and 
barracudas inhabiting the water. 
There were quite a few of 
them in the water due to the 

ship traffic at anchor waiting to enter the Pacific side 

of the Panama Canal. 

We could see many ships about a mile or so off shore, and when 

they sat at anchor or traversed through the bay area the ships would 

flush out their toilet tanks, and 

throw the ships garbage into the 

water. The sharks and many 

other species of marine life 

flocked to the area eating the 

garbage and shit. It was all 

just food for them. 

Located on the center of 

the shark fence was a small 

platform where a life guard on duty was stationed. There was also a 

second soldier on duty, with a fully-loaded M- 16 rifle, standing guard 

to shoot any sharks that might decide to approach or try to breach the 

fence. The armed guard had permission to shoot and kill any shark 

that came within close distance to the fence. 

Another thing we learned about the beach and the ocean was 

that the Pacific Ocean side of Panama had one of the largest tidal 




140 Bud Monaco 



changes in the world, if not the largest, exceeding fifteen feet every 
twelve hours. When the tide was out there was very little 
water inside the shark net, which was set back about forty 
yards from the shore. 

There was also a second life guard platform on the shore, and a 
well-kept concession stand that had soda, hot dogs, and hamburgers 
that were pretty good to eat, a picnic table area, as well as showers 
and bathrooms. One of the life guards was a HHC bro crew guy, 
Joe Ryan, from Pittsburg, PA. Joe 
and I became real good friends 
during our time at Fort Kobbe and 
we had many great times together. 
If there was the most perfect and 
coolest detail in the Army, Joe's 
job as a life guard was it without 
a doubt. There were many people 
all over the place, all branches of 
the in-country stationed military 
and civilian dependents, with 
children making castles in the sand, swimming in the water, lying 
around on blankets in the pristine ocean sand, walking around, and 
just having a swell time during their day at the beach. It was a nice 
break from the daily rigors of military life. It was just like being at 
Chicago's Rainbow Beach back home in America. The big 
difference was there was no pollution from the Chicago steel mills 
or being able to see the beautiful Chicago skyline. 

Figuring that we were going to fmd a place in the sand and do 
some swimming, Louie and I realized after we bought some sodas, 
that the guys continued walking past the beach area and up the coast 
to the north. Along that part of the coast there was absolutely no one 
except us. The shore was to our right, with about twenty yards of 
beach left of the shore that rose slightly up to the jungle tree line 
canopy that ran down to the tropic sea, creating a dark emerald 
blanket edged by the liquid topaz sea. After about a mile, you 
couldn't even see Kobbe Beach, or hear anything except 
the ocean surf breaking upon the shore. 

One of the guys had a portable cassette player, and the music 




DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 141 




t./ 



^^■-^-^ 



4 



was cascading over the sand into our ears, like I had never heard 
music sound like that. It was really something and downright 
outstanding. We walked for another half a mile or so, and came upon 
what was known as The Point' or 'The Rocks.' It was a unique, large 
rock formation, about ten feet higher than the water at high tide that 
jutted out of the jungle about twenty yards into the ocean. 

We clambered up onto the rocks finding places to sit, bagging 
some rays, and someone broke out a Johnson. If the beach, ocean, 
sand, and music were beautiful things to see for the first time, now 

it was an unbelievable, 
beaufiful, and mesmerizing 
time to behold. Wow! That 
was really something out 
there on the rocks for the first 
time. A couple of guys did 
some diving off the rocks 
into the water, but I was not 
a good swimmer, and the 
ocean had a foreboding, 
dangerous look about it in my eyes. I stayed put on the rocks, not 
venturing into the water, and enjoyed the time as it was. 

The guys who dove into the water did not spend but a minute in 
the water, and then climbed back out onto the rocks, as there was 
always the probability of sharks being in the water. Otis Redding's 
song, ''Sitting On The Dock Of The BayT was a very reminiscent 
popular song played over and over again out on the rocks, and we 
changed the lyrics to, "Sitting On The Rocks Of Panama Bay. 
Watching The Ships As The Tide Rolled Away." We would all sing 
together in harmony, if you could call it that, just having a grand 
old fime for hours on end. 

We hung out on the rocks for the next four or five hours, then 
started our walk back to Kobbe Beach, and on the road back to Fort 
Kobbe. It was a wonderful experience to always remember, and would 
be continued repeatedly, as we spent many days and hours out on 
The Rocks' away from the lifers inhabiting Kobbe Beach, spending 
our fime in the solace of the sequestered and tranquil hideaway. 
It surely was a highly revered place of sanctuary. 






142 Bud Monaco 



Saturday night and Sunday passed quickly, as we mostly laid 
around the barracks listening to music, writing letters, and catching 
up on some much needed sleep. In the first days of Basic Training 
and AIT, it was very evident that sleep was not on any agenda of the 
Army. There was never enough time to sleep well, or for any 
extended period of time. Whenever a soldier could grab some shut 
eye, it was one of the main leisure activities a soldier could do. 
A soldier, either in garrison or combat, never got enough sleep. 
During a working day, no soldier was allowed to be in his rack 
sleeping even if he had the day off or had a three day pass. 

A soldier with a day off would only find solace in sleep by 
going to Kobbe Beach, and crashing on a blanket in the sand. Some 
soldiers actually went to downtown Panama City, rented a 
cheap whorehouse hotel room, and only then were they able to 
have some decent sleep time. 

A soldier learned to sleep just about anywhere, anytime, at a 
moment's notice. Soldiers could catch forty winks in full combat 
gear, jammed in with twenty other soldiers, assholes to elbows, riding 
in the back of a deuce and a half truck, bouncing and banging around 
over pot-holed, broken jungle roads, with no problem at all. Soldiers 
could fall asleep standing up in waist deep filthy muddy water in 
a foxhole, and not take a moment's hesitation to do so. Anytime 
there was the slightest chance of grabbing some shut eye, 
it was quickly taken. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 143 



Chapter 25 

Monday morning arrived, always all too soon, and after roll call, 
reveille, PT, and mess call, the platoon sergeant instructed 
Louie and me to take our fatigue shirts, khaki and dress green 
uniforms, over to the base tailor, and have the 193rd Infantry Brigade 
Unit Insignia patches sewn properly onto them. 

A soldier could choose to do his own sewing with needle and 
thread, but having the tailor do it properly, and not fall apart was the 
way to go, even with having to pay out of his own pocket. He also 
told us to take all of our fatigue shirts and pants to the cleaners to 
have them properly cleaned, starched, and pressed. Just having your 
fatigues washed did not cut it in that unit. 

The 193rd was a highly stract outfit, and every soldier was 
required to wear starched fatigues while on duty, as well as having 
your Army combat boots and dress shoes spit-shined every day. And 
don't forget to polish your belt buckle every day with Brasso. An 
unpolished belt buckle would get you assigned to a scut detail real 
quick. We had to pay extra for the starching service, even though it 
was required by the unit, and a soldier would try to keep his starched 
fatigues as fresh as possible, breaking starch by putting on 
clean fatigues only when necessary. 

Well, that was cool and no problem for us, because we could 
kill off the morning by dicking around at the tailor and cleaners, 
wasting time doing some more ghosting. The morning time seemed 
to fly by in a flash, and before we knew it, it was mess call time for 
lunch, and we had done absolutely nothing but hang around waiting 
for our clothes to be taken care of, putting another morning of Army 
time behind us. It surely would not be like that most of the time, as 
the Army always had many details, duties, and training operations 
for soldiers to do from dawn to dusk, and a lot of times through 
the night until the break of day. 

After lunch mess call, the 4.2" mortar platoon formed up in the 
company street, and we were marched down to the HHC Motor Pool 
to work on the platoon's assigned vehicles. The Battalion Motor Pool 
was huge, and there were over a hundred Army vehicles kept there, 
enclosed behind an eight-foot high, reinforced chain link fence, topped 
off with a half-dozen strands of razor-cut barbed wire. It was kept 



144 Bud Monaco 



under guard by a roving military police patrol during off duty hours. 
The vehicles kept there were deuce and a half trucks, five ton trucks, 
one and a quarter ton trucks, jeeps, trailers, full size tractor-trailer 
trucks with flatbed trailers, ten ton and five ton tow trucks, water 
tanker trucks, fuel tanker trucks, Rome plows, heavy equipment fork 
lifts, and a gigantic Rough Terrain Vehicle (RTV) with an huge 
attachable fork lift that could lift a house off its foundation, with 
four, six-foot high tires that were three feet wide. 

The Motor Pool garage was a big corrugated steel building with 
a concrete floor, having six maintenance bays, large vehicle hoists, 
in-ground open grease pit bays used for working from underneath 
any of the vehicles, engine hoists, tool boxes brimming with every 
imaginable tool, and air compressors. There was also a tire shack 
attached to the garage that had a giant tire changing machine, which 
was able to remove and replace any size tire from a jeep to a deuce 
and a half truck to the RTV. There were a dozen stacks of new tires 
standing twenty feet high along all the walls of the tire shack. 

There also was a parts shack that was just brimming with spare 
parts, stacked floor to ceiling on metal shelves. The motor pool 
sergeant had an office located in one of the corners of the main 
building where all the vehicle records were kept, as well as where 
all the work orders and parts requisitions were processed. It 
was a major operation for sure. 

All the vehicles were kept in perfect running order, with engine 
tune-ups done constantly, painted perfectly in Army OD green, with 
all the exact company and battalion designated bumper numbers, front 
and back, stenciled on them in white paint, oil and fluid levels checked 
and changed on a regular schedule depending on use of the vehicle, 
tires checked daily for wear, damage, correct tire pressure, and 
rotated on a regular schedule. 

Each vehicle had its own individual maintenance card, keeping 
a permanent record of all work and maintenance done, listing it all 
exactly by time, date, the soldier who performed the maintenance, 
inspected and signed by the platoon sergeant, then inspected and 
signed again by the motor platoon sergeant. Everything was done by 
the book and by the numbers. The Battalion Motor Pool vehicles 
were ready to roll in a moment's notice, twenty-four hours a day. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 145 

It was Louie's and my first excursion to the Motor Pool, and 
there was plenty of vehicle maintenance to be done all the time. The 
4.2" mortar platoon had a dozen vehicles assigned to it that had to be 
properly and perfectly maintained at least once a week. The platoon's 
vehicles consisted of six one and a quarter ton trucks with 
canvas-covered truck beds that could hold up to eight soldiers, one 
assigned for each of the four guns, one for equipment, one for 
carrying ammo, and four jeeps, two assigned to the mortar platoon 
officer and the platoon sergeant, and two that were available for use 
by the mortar platoon soldiers for any other needs. 

First order of the day at the Motor Pool; guess who gets the 
greasy scut job of changing the oil in the vehicles? Yeah, right. The 
SGT says, "You two cherries. Chandler and Monaco. Each of you 
grab a wrench, the drain pans, crawl under these vehicles in the dirt, 
open the drain plugs to drain the oil, replace the drain plugs, and I'll 
have replacement oil ready for you standing by to refill the 
crankcases when you're done draining the oil. Then carry 
the used oil over to the Motor Pool garage, and dump it in 
the used oil barrels." 

So we got down in the dirt, crawled under the trucks, drained 
and changed the oil in all six of the ton and a quarter trucks. By the 
time we were finished we were absolutely filthy with dirt and grease 
caked on our hands, arms and faces. The freshly starched fatigues 
we put on that morning were shot to shit. Eventually, we would learn 
when to wear fresh fatigues, and not break starch, if we were going 
to be doing scut work. There's that Army learning curve again. We'd 
figure it out as we learned the ropes. 

The SGT had something else to take care of, and had left, 
leaving a SP4 in charge of the platoon. This was an open invitation 
for everyone else, but Louie and I, to do some ghosting. Some guys 
were standing around pretending to be looking under the hoods of 
some vehicles to do some work, some walking around kicking tires 
to look busy, and others out and out disappeared, probably over to 
the garage to buy sodas from the vending machine, have a smoke, 
and shoot the shit with the Motor Pool soldiers. For the most part, 
none of them did any vehicle maintenance of any sort except for the 
two FNGs, Louie and me. Our time would come, not soon enough 



146 Bud Monaco 



though, when we would no longer be the FNGs. 

Another thing of note that Louie and I learned about during the 
following weekly venture to the Motor Pool for vehicle maintenance 
detail, was a hazing ritual that we had unknowingly been part of. 
During the second trip to the Motor Pool, a couple of other 4.2" 
platoon soldiers were assigned to change the oil in the trucks. As 
Louie and I were watching, the soldiers got into the trucks, drove 
them over to the Motor Pool garage, pulled into a couple of the bays, 
climbed down the stairs into the in-ground grease pits, and pulled the 
oil plugs from underneath the truck to drain the oil without having to 
crawl under the trucks, lying on their backs down in the dirt. 

Damn, no one told us about this available routine, and when we 
questioned them, they all had a good laugh at our expense and said, 
'That was just a little hazing that we do to all the FNG cherries just 
to bust your balls. We call it field training, just in case you have to 
change the oil out in the field." Very funny. It was just another part 
of the Army learning curve. 

As the afternoon came to pass, we took up a formation, and 
marched back to the company area for dinner mess call. Louie and 
I first headed to the showers to clean up, and put on some clean 
fatigues. We ate dinner and had the rest of the night off 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 147 



Chapter 26 

Guard Duty 

The next day after the morning routine, the platoon sergeant told 
Louie and me, along with four other guys, to fall out separately 
before the breakfast mess call. He told the six of us that we were 
being assigned to guard duty, which would begin later that afternoon 
at 4:00 p.m. Guard duty was assigned in rotation for all the HHC 
platoons, squad by squad, and there were only a few soldiers that 
were exempted from that duty; the Company clerks, armorer. 
Training room personnel, Personnel office soldiers, and cooks. Once 
HHC soldiers rotated through, the other Line Companies of 
A, B, and C, would then take up the rotation that was regularly 
scheduled at Battalion Headquarters. 

The other four guys started griping and bitching right away 
saying, "Come on, Sarge, I had guard duty just last month. Why am 
I on guard duty again? Ain't it someone else's turn?" I didn't 
understand what all the griping was about. Just how bad could guard 
duty be? I found out soon enough, and it wasn't a very pleasant 
detail. Not that it was ass-busting hard, but it was not 
just a walk in the sun either. 

A GI griped and complained about everything, no matter how 
serious or trivial. They were all chronic complainers never ceasing 
to bemoan whatever assignment or detail that came about. That 
chronic complaining was always paralleled right out of the Beetle 
Baily comic strip and the TV series 'Combat J with Private Kirby, the 
BAR man, always griping and moaning about everything. It was 
always the case, ''Why me, SargeT Why? Because, that was the Army, 
that was the way it was, and that was the case throughout every facet 
of the Army, as well as throughout all branches of the military. 

The Army and the military was not a democracy. No way in the 
least bit. Although soldiers served in the military in garrison and in 
combat to protect and preserve democracy, but it was totally without 
any democratic recourse. The military was a totalitarian way of life, 
and every swinging dick had to follow orders without any 
semblance of democracy. 

The platoon sergeant told us that after breakfast mess call we 



148 Bud Monaco 



were to go back to the barracks, prepare and clean our web gear, to 
include pistol belts, ammo pouches, canteens, steel pots, helmet 
liners, make sure our boots were spit-shined, polish our belt buckles, 
get a cleaned and starched set of fatigues prepared, sign out a . 1 2 
gauge sawed-off shotgun from the armorer, and report to the 
sergeant of the guard in the Guard Duty barracks bay. 

The bay was located in one of the HHC buildings and we were 
to report at 3:30 p.m. sharp. He emphatically told us not to be late, or 
we would be on the carpet in the IstSGT's office to be raked over the 
coals without hesitation. The Army took guard duty very seriously 
without a doubt. We would have the day off from any other duties 
until reporting time. This preparation only took about fifteen 
minutes, and the other guys stopped their griping for a while, 
as it was again a good time to do some more ghosting until 
reporting for guard duty. 

Guard duty at Fort Kobbe consisted of four strategic locations. 
Three of them were twenty-four hours a day and the other one went 
into effect at night fall. The three locations guarded twenty-four hours 
a day consisted of the three ammo bunkers that were hidden away in 
the jungle areas between the Motor Pool and Kobbe Beach. The 
bunkers were large ammo storage bunkers, forty feet high, two 
hundred feet long, made out of three-foot thick, steel-reinforced 
concrete walls and ceilings, covered with ten feet of earth, with 
large, three-inch thick steel, latch bolted entrance double doors on 
one end of the bunker. 

Each bunker complex was surrounded by a ten foot cyclone 
fence, with five strands of circular razor-cut barbed wire stretched 
across the top of the fence line encircling the bunker complex. There 
was a large double gate that was chain-locked at all times for 
entrance to the bunker complex. The bunker complex was surrounded 
by triple canopy, literally, impenetrable jungle. 

Secured away inside the ammo bunkers was every kind of 
ordinance you could imagine to supply an infantry battalion, and a 
field artillery unit for combat. All of the ammo was boxed-up in 
individual ammo boxes, stacked, metal strapped banded, and secured 
on pallets, ready to be picked up by a fork lift, and placed on a deuce 
and a half truck. Some of the pallets were set up with cargo 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 149 

parachutes attached, ready to be air dropped by C-130 
aircraft when necessary. 

The other guard duty location was at the Kobbe Beach area. 
The area was the least imposing of the four locations, and much 
preferred for standing guard by the guard duty soldiers. The Kobbe 
Beach area was lighted with a single street lamp or two and other 
than bashing through the jungle there was only one approach from 
the road into the parking lot. It was all very visible so a soldier 
could see everything clearly. 

The Army system for guard duty was basically the same for all 
units. Guard duty soldiers would report in to the daily assigned 
sergeant of the guard at the guard duty barracks bay at 3:30 p.m. 
sharp, stand inspection, told the daily passwords for the password 
challenge and password response, and be assigned a guard duty 
station for the following twenty-four hours. Each four-man detail of 
soldiers would stand guard for two hours on and four hours off. The 
SGT would set up the schedule, and the first guards would be taken 
by truck to the assigned guard posts for a two hour shift. 

It seemed pretty cool that you would be on guard for two hours, 
and then sleep for the next four hours, but it didn't actually work out 
that way. You would have to be in the truck thirty minutes before 
your actual guard time for transportation to the guard station, and 
when the SGT came back to change the guard at each station, 
it would take another thirty minutes, at least, to return to the 
Guard Duty barracks. 

The four hours off wound up being only about three hours. 
Sleeping in the Guard Duty barracks was not very good, as there 
were other soldiers moving around and getting ready for their next 
shift, and the SGT was waking soldiers up to get ready for their next 
shift. So actually getting any worthwhile sleep was not going to 
happen. You might get one or two hours of sleep, if any at all. Your 
four hours off also included your time to go to the mess hall for 
breakfast, lunch and dinner, which cut into any sleep time during a 
twenty-four hour guard duty detail. Now, I understood why some of 
the other guys were bitching and moaning about being assigned to 
guard duty, as it was not a very pleasant detail. 

And for the guys who were assigned guard duty at the ammo 



150 Bud Monaco 



bunkers, it got worse. The worse part of guard duty at the ammo 
bunkers was, that when it got dark out, it was real dark, hke pitch 
black foreboding dark. You couldn't see squat passed the fence line, 
or the thirty feet of cleared area from the outside of the fence line to 
the jungle. It was goddamned scary being out there all alone, 
with just a small light over the bunker door, which didn't give 
off much light at all. 

Although you were locked inside the fence line, and carrying 
a . 12 gauge sawed off shotgun, it was still a very primordial feeling, 
with the triple canopy jungle surrounding you on four sides, and the 
constant sounds of animals and bugs cascading out of the jungle at 
night, scaring the living shit out of you. Each soldier had only three 
rounds of shotgun ammo, and you were specifically instructed not to 
load any of them into the shotgun, unless you came under a direct 
attack, or someone tried to breach the fence line. 

The officer of the day (OD) or the sergeant of the guard would 
also, unannounced and sporadically, show up either by directly 
approaching your station, or sneaking up on the station to make sure 
you were not sleeping, smoking, or pulling your prick. You would 
have to be walking the inside of the perimeter, and when the OD or 
SGT would approach the fence line, you would have to go through 
the procedure of hollering out the challenge, "Halt. Who goes there? 
Advance and be recognized," and they would holler back at you, 
"I am the OD or SGT," and you would holler out the challenge 
password, and they would holler out the counter password back in 
response. If you did not proceed in this proper manner, or got caught 
sleeping or smoking, you would be in a total world of shit. 

There was a story that floated around about a gung-ho OD, 
a recently assigned, new brown bar second lieutenant, trying to show 
off, who snuck up on one of the ammo bunkers in the middle of the 
night, and tried to climb over the fence near the back end of the 
bunker to see if the soldier stationed there at the time was awake, and 
properly doing his guard duties. Well that brilliant move almost cost 
the officer his life, as the soldier freaked out, loaded the three rounds 
of ammo into his shotgun, and started blasting away, firing off all 
three rounds when the OD didn't respond to his challenge. Luckily 
for the OD, the soldier couldn't see a thing in the dark, and missed 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 151 

with all three rounds. I bet that officer never tried to pull a stunt 
like that again. 

Like I said, the Army took guard duty detail very seriously. The 
two hours out there in the jungle guarding the ammo bunkers seemed 
like six hours, and time seemed to stand still, moving real slow, 
keeping you scared to the bone during your full two hour shift. The 
guard duty detail was a continuing regular detail, and a soldier 
would always regret it when his number came up in the rotation 
to stand guard duty. 

The twenty-four hour detail of guard duty eventually ended the 
following afternoon, and it could not have arrived anytime sooner. 
We signed out with the sergeant of the guard, returned to our 
barracks, stored our gear, headed down for dinner mess call, and had 
the rest of the night off until morning reveille. 

The next day was the new month of November, and with the 
first weeks in country during October now over, it was a big relief 
after enduring the processing in, platoon assignment, weapons 
qualifications, and all the rest of learning the ropes at Fort Kobbe. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 153 



Chapter 27 




"Tb Gamble With Life Has Brutal Odds. 

It's Usually A Bet You Shouldn 't Take. 

But Then You 'd Miss Out On All The Fun.'' 

The first days of November started off just like the days of 
October, as the routines of Army garrison Hfe continued much 
in the same way. But it quickly became evident that there was still a 
lot more to learn with many trying times ahead in the months 
to come. I would become, through bracing military routine, one of 

many soldiers, sailors, marines, 
and airmen, who were highly- 
trained, motivated, and integral 
parts of the United States 
Southern Command Ready 
Reaction Combat Units. The 
USSOCOM would stand ready at 
all times to protect and defend the 
Panama Canal, the Canal Zone, 
Panama, Central America, South America, and its environs, 
by any means necessary. It would be done in a highly 
efficient order, through standards set by military regulations, 
proficiently directed by the appointed military commanders in charge. 
Early in November, during the first week or so while we were 
sitting around the barracks one evening, the guys started talking about 
doing a 'runway trip,' and they asked Louie and me if we wanted to 
go with them. Not having the slightest clue of what a 'runway trip' 
was all about, and none of them would explain it to us, telling us that 
we would find out about it soon enough, we headed out of the 
barracks into the Panama night. Eight of us crammed into an old '56 
Buick Roadmaster that one of the guys had bought. It was handed 
down from previous deploying soldiers. It was kept in a parking lot 
for civilian vehicles. We then headed down the road towards Kobbe 
Beach. Before we got down the road past the Motor Pool, the driver 
turned south onto a small gravel road that cut into the jungle. Further 
down the road the car stopped, everyone but the driver got out of the 
car, leaving the rest of us there in the middle of the jungle area, and 
the driver turned the car around and drove away. 



154 Bud Monaco 



We had burned a Johnson on the way and were pretty stoned. 
The guys started off into the jungle on a barely visible path which 
they seemed to know well. We walked for about a quarter of a mile, 
hardly able to see the path with the triple canopy jungle closed in 
around us on all sides in total darkness, then the tree line of the jungle 
abruptly ended, and right in front of us was the gigantic runway of 
Howard Air Force Base. Howard Air Force Base was a huge, 
sprawling air field and air base with a runway over three thousand 
feet long and two hundred yards wide. Down at the other end of the 
runway, we could see the gigantic airplane hangars, the numerous 
airport buildings, and the Air Force barracks buildings. All the 
buildings had lights turned on, but the runway was completely dark. 
The clearing from the tree line was about fifty yards long, and there 
were about thirty, huge, three foot by three foot square, glass 
enclosed halogen landing lights, perfectly placed and spaced out 
across the width of the runway approach for another fifty yards from 
the end of the clearing to the end of the runway. 

For many years, Howard Air Force Base served as the bastion 
of United States air power in Central and South America. It was the 
center for counter-drug operations, military and humanitarian airlift 
contingencies, joint nation military exercises, airborne infantry 
operations, and search and rescue operations. It was the major hub of 
Air Force operations in Latin America. Howard Air Force Base hosted 
at any given time, Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, McDonnell Douglas F-4 
Phantom, Vought A-7 Corsair, Grumman A-6 Intruder, Republic 
F-105 Thunderchief, Vought F~8 Crusader, and Grumman KA-6 
Prowler fighter jets. Also in the arsenal were, Lockheed C-130 
Hercules, Lockheed C-5A Galaxy heavy lift cargo planes, B-52 
Stratofortress bombers, which only visited the base, KC-135 
Stratotankers, P-3 Orion airborne warning and control system 
aircraft, executive jets, Boeing ACH-47 Chinook, Bell UH-IB Huey, 
Bell AH- IG Huey Cobra helicopters, and Sikorsky HH-53 Super Jolly 
search and rescue helicopters. It was also the home for a host of 
Army and Navy aircraft. Cargo planes provided airlift for the 
USSOCOM contingencies, exercises, disaster relief, and conducted 
search and rescue missions in the vast regions of Central and South 
America, including the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, and the 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 155 



Caribbean Sea. You want to talk about air power superiority. 
Well, the U.S. was second to nonel 

I had been a little familiar with Howard Air Force Base, as the 
runway was only about a thousand yards from the barracks. It was 
directly adjacent to Fort Kobbe with only Kobbe Road separating 
them. Throughout any given day or night, you could hear the aircraft 
taking off and landing as if they were blasting right down the 
battalion street. At times it was ear-splitting, and would vibrate the 
Fort Kobbe buildings depending on the aircraft. From some of the 
upper-floor windows of Fort Kobbe buildings, you could clearly see 
the runway and aircraft. The jet and prop noise could be distracting 
and disruptive, but you learned to live with it. Nothing else you could 
do, as it was never going to change. That's the way it was. 

So, here we are standing in the tree line, and I asked one of the 
guys what was going on. He tells me that we are waiting for the Air 
Force police patrol to drive by, and pointed out a small utility road 
that ran along the sides of the runway. Those guys knew the routine 
of the APs, and being that we were in a highly-restricted area, we did 
not want to get caught here, or we would all be on the carpet in the 
IstSGT's office come morning with Top reading us our Article 15 
rights. About a half-hour later, during which we had burned another 
Johnson, sure as shit, we see the headlights of a jeep driving along 
the utility road with two APs approaching. The guys told me that as 
long as we stayed in the tree line they could not see us in the dark, as 
long as they did not know we were there, and were not specifically 
looking for anyone. 

The APs made their rounds at the west end of the runway, and 
headed back east. They would not be back that way on patrol for 
another two hours. Louie and I still did not have a clue why we were 
there or what was going to happen. Once the APs were far enough 
away from our location, we walked out of the tree line. One of the 
guys walked us up to the light boxes that were at ground level, which 
were about three feet tall, attached to secure posts anchored in the 
ground, angled facing up to the west. He told us to lie down on our 
backs in the somewhat short-cut grass with our heads towards the 
light box, and the rest of the guys took their places in the front of 
some of the other light boxes. 



156 Bud Monaco 



Then we waited. Louie and I didn't know what we were waiting 
for lying there in the dark, looking back at the jungle tree line, with 
the Panamanian night sky overhead as crystal clear as far as your 
eyes could see, with thousands of beautifully sparkling stars shining 
down on us. It was pretty awesome. 

About fifteen minutes later, all thirty of the lights came on at 
once in a blazing white light, lighting up the tree line, the sky, and 
the runway approach. Looking back over my shoulder from ground 
level, I could see that there were in-ground lights from one end of the 
runway as far as I could see to the east, completely lighting up the 
runway as if it were broad daylight. 

It was deadly quiet out there. All I could hear was the noise of 
bugs, animals, and birds coming out of the jungle tree line fifty yards 
away. Then, at first, we heard a very faint sound of airplane engines 
coming from the west. The sound continued to get louder, louder, 
and louder, with the ground beginning to vibrate, and seemingly, out 
of the sky above us from out of nowhere, breaking over the top of the 
jungle canopy at tree top level. Bam! A huge Lockheed C-130 
Hercules Cargo and Troop transport airplane with a hundred and 
thirty-two foot wing span, sporting four Allison T56-A7 Turboprop 
engines, breaks out from over the tree line, with its landing lights 
blazing, only fifty feet above us. Holy fucking shit\ It scared the 
living shit out of me, as I'm looking right up at the plane with the 
landing gear down just di few feet above me, seemingly close enough 
to reach out and touch, and the four huge Turboprop propellers and 
four engines became a deafening roar like I had never heard before. 

It was absolutely shocking! The deafening, high-pitched engine 
noise was screaming and ratding my now compressed ears and brain, 
as this huge aircraft flew right over my prone and now vibrating body. 
The aircraft was so close overhead, that I could make out the rivets 
on the metal skin. It scared me so much, that I screamed out loud in 
absolute fear, turtled up into the fetus position, grabbed my head 
with my hands, and rolled over onto my stomach, damn near pissing 
and shitting in my pants. I thought I was going to die right then and 
there on the spot for sure. Rolling partially over onto my side, I looked 
back towards the runway as the airplane touched down, clearly 
hearing the loud screech of the landing gear tires hitting the runway. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now ! 157 

burning rubber with a lot of smoke coming off the tires, and I felt the 
intense heat of the engines wash over my body. Wow! I mean, ''WOW! " 
It was totally stunning to all my senses, seeing and hearing the 
huge aircraft so up-close and personal, and something 
I would never forget. 

As the airplane fully landed, it continued down the runway, and 
the pilot reversed the air flow of the engines, helping the breaking to 
slow the aircraft down, creating another high pitched roar that damn 
near blew out my eardrums. As the roar subsided, the airplane taxied 
to the shutdown staging area at the far end of the runway, and it once 
again became deadly quiet. Then all the lights went out at once, and 
we were again in total darkness, as everyone started laughing and 
yelling their asses off at each other. The other guys were yelling over 
to me and Louie, "How'd you like that you fucking cherries?" We 
were so stunned, we couldn't even answer them back, as all we could 
do was madly laugh, trying to overcome the shock of it all. 

Louie and I started to stand up, figuring that the 'runway trip' 
was over, and the other guys all started yelling at us to, "Get the fuck 
back down you asshole cherries. The best is yet to come." So we 




dropped back down and I said, "What? What the fuck do you mean 
the best is yet to come? How in the world could anything top that?" 
Someone yelled back at me, "You'll see, just wait." As we were 
lying there, I yelled out to one of the guys, "How didn't the pilots see 
us lying down here and call the APs?" One of the guys yelled back 
and said, "Being under the lights they can't see us from the air as the 
ground lights are too bright facing skyward for them to see the 
ground where we are laying." "Well, I'll be damned," I said to 
myself, lying there waiting for whatever and whenever the 
next best event would be. 

The guys later told us back at the barracks that they knew some 



158 Bud Monaco 



of the Air Force flight controllers that worked in the Air Force base 
control tower, and they would give them the heads-up on incoming 
night flight schedules for inbound aircraft. Some great inter-agency 
military information was nicely at hand. Although, probably, very 
unauthorized and improperly acquired to say the least. I guess you 
just had to know the right people to pull off a stunt like that. 

So there we were still lying under the lights, and about fifteen 
minutes later we again heard the faint roar of aircraft engines 
approaching. The routine followed the same pattern with the lights 
being turned on, and the engine roar getting louder and louder, but 
that time the roar became even louder than before. Then, busting 
over the top of the jungle tree line at tree-top level with a screaming, 
even more deafening roar than before, a gigantic Lockheed 
C-5A Galaxy Cargo Master aircraft of unfathomable size, seeing it 
from that prone position and unfathomable size from any position, 
twice the size of the C-130 with a wing span of two hundred and 
twenty-two feet, roared over our prone bodies, absolutely causing 
the ground beneath us to shake and vibrate like an earthquake. If the 
big C-130 going overhead was something, this C-5A, with its four, 
huge. General Electric TF-391 Turbofan Jet engines that were each 
as big as a house, was really something else, as it blotted out the 
whole sky passing over us. Did I say "Wow" before? Well now it 
was, "WOU^ y^OW, and WOW.'" Geeezzzusss fucking christ, it was 
totally mind-blowing. It was absolutely great! Probably the greatest 
thing I had ever seen in my life. Where else in the world could you 
lay just fifty feet under a landing C-5A Galaxy Cargo Master 
airplane, stoned to the max in the middle of the night, on a 
highly-secured military air field? 

Oh baby, what a trip never to be forgotten, and that event would 
be repeated numerous times during my time in country in Panama. 
Leave it to inventive American GIs, thousands of miles from home, 
stationed at an American military base in a foreign country to find 
unimaginable ways to have fun and entertain themselves. There's 
nothing like the audacity of an American GI anywhere in the world. 
Oh baby, what a 'runway trip' that turned out to be. 

The aircraft landed, with its giant, twenty-eight landing gear 
tires screeching loud enough to compress my ears, taxied to the 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 159 



staging area, and all the lights were turned off, leaving us in the 
pitch-black darkness once again. Everyone was hooting and hollering 
in a crazed frenzy, enjoying the moment immensely. Now, the other 
guys, with Louie and I following suit, all stood up and we 
made our way back to the tree line before the APs showed up 
again on their patrol. 

We walked back through the jungle on the still, hardly visible 
path, and low and behold, there was our soldier pal with the 
Roadmaster waiting for us when we came back to the gravel road. 
We all piled into the car and headed back to the barracks to hoot and 
holler for the rest of the night about our 'runway trip' excursion. 
What a night to remember. I would surely do it all over again in a 
heartbeat if the opportunity ever presented itself in the present time 
more than forty years later. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 161 



Chapter 28 

Airborne: All The Way, Sir! 

''The Army Is A Madhouse. 

The Wardens Are The Generals, 

The Commanding Officers and Sergeants Are The Guards/' 

As the next week of November arrived, I learned about the 
workings of the 193rd Infantry Brigade's Airborne Operations. 
The elite soldiers of 'A' Company Airborne, referred to as Alpha 
Company, of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment stationed 

at Fort Kobbe, along 
with Headquarters and 
Headquarters Company, 
'B' Company, referred to as 
Bravo Company, and 'C 
Company, referred to as 
Charlie Company, was a 
fully combat-operational, 
ready-reaction with an 
Army airborne regiment attached, in which all the soldiers assigned 
to 'A Company were Army airborne qualified troops on active jump 
status. The two other battalions of the 193rd Infantry Brigade, the 
4th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment at Fort Clayton, and the 4th 
Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment at Fort Davis, did not have 
airborne troops attached to them. 

The command slots of HHC, which included the HHC captain 
company commander, first lieutenant executive officer, first sergeant, 
and the supply sergeant, were assigned designated jump slots also. 
The battalion command positions in the 3rd and the 5th were all 
airborne qualified and on jump status as well, including the drivers 
and radio and telephone operators (RTOs) soldiers. 

The airborne riggers platoon was assigned to HHC, and the 
twenty soldiers were airborne qualified and on active jump status. 
The airborne riggers were a very special breed of airborne soldiers 
who worked exclusively in the Riggers shed, also called the Para 
loft, which was located in the same compound area as the Battalion 




162 Bud Monaco 



Motor Pool and the Battalion Supply depot. The riggers were held in 
high esteem by the airborne troops, as these soldiers were 
responsible for maintaining and hand-packing all of the battalion's 
parachutes for combat and training readiness. 

The rigger slots were highly sought after positions with only 
the best and the most highly motivated airborne soldiers being 
selected to attend Airborne Rigger Training School, complete the 

training, be awarded the highly 
coveted Rigger Wings badge, 
and be assigned to that stract 
platoon. A rigger had to be the 
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ best airborne soldier in the 
^^^^^^^^^B^^^^^^^H as the 

^^H^^^^^^H^^^^^^I on the 

^|^^^^^H|||^^^^H|H rigger doing his job absolutely, 
^^^^^^^^^^^^BI^^H^E dead nuts on, perfect. There was 
absolutely no room for error when an airborne soldier exited a 
C- 130 Hercules aircraft or a Huey helicopter from a thousand feet of 
altitude, with nothing but his parachute silk deploying over his head 
to get him to the ground safely. Airborne troops were some of the 
best trained, meanest fighting machines, and the toughest 
motherfuckers, as well as a little bit more than crazy, serving in the 
Army, hands down. Airborne troops reveled in their positions, 
and loved every minute of it. 

I became friends with many of the riggers as they were assigned 
to the same barracks with the rest of the platoons of HHC. I learned 
about all the aspects of airborne operations, as we spent a lot of time 
together. The riggers explained all the nuances of airborne 
operations whenever we were sitting around shooting the breeze. 
It was very interesting and informative. 

It was so fascinating that it eventually prompted me a few months 
later into my tour to join the Howard AFB Sport Parachuting Club, 
which was a non-military, private club, operated by Vietnam 
combat-experienced Air Force fighter jet pilots stationed at Howard 
AFB. Those Air Force pilots were as whacked as the airborne troops 
when it came to looking for excitement, and I guess just flying the 
shit out of supersonic jets in combat wasn't enough thrills for them. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 163 



as they continued to put more excitement into their lives by jumping 
out of airplanes with only a parachute strapped to their backs. The 
intrigue of jumping out of a flying aircraft was something I just had 
to experience. It proved to be some of the most enthralling 
experiences of my life. 

Over at Battalion Headquarters, all the assigned command 
positions there were airborne jump slots, as the battalion lieutenant 
colonel commanding officer, battalion major executive officer, 
battalion captain S-2 intelligence officer, battalion sergeant major, 
the battalion drivers, and RTOs, were airborne qualified on active 
jump status. With the battalion staff, the HHC command positions, 
and 'A' Company all on active jump status, the airborne operations 
of the 3rd Battalion 5th Infantry Regiment could strike swift and 
deadly at a moments notice, at any time of the day or night, with 
devastating results, bringing death from above before an enemy force 
knew what hit them. The airborne operations also contained the 
capabilities of air dropping field artillery weapons, support vehicles, 
all-terrain vehicles, food, water, fuel, equipment of any sort, and 
ammunition. Those soldiers were nobody to mess with, and it was 
pretty cool being a part of their airborne operations, as the HHC 
personnel worked many details in support of all airborne operations 
in Panama and Central America. 

My first airborne detail assignment came about during the third 
week of November, 1969. I, along with a half-dozen other HHC 
soldiers, were assigned the task called the water recovery detail, and 
it turned out to be a pretty cool detail to be a part of, although some 
of the other old timers could not care less for the 
assignment, or any assignment for that fact. They would rather be 
off ghosting somewhere doing nothing than actually doing 
something of importance. 

Our detail fell out together after breakfast mess call, picked up 
by a deuce and a half truck, and taken to the Battalion Motor Pool. 
We then were instructed to take a small, ten foot long, flat-bottomed 
boat, with a seventy-five horse powered outboard motor attached to 
it, and secured to a boat trailer, out of the Motor Pool garage. 

We hooked it up with a trailer hitch to the deuce and a half 
truck, and were driven to the Fort Kobbe/Howard AFB drop zone 



164 Bud Monaco 



(DZ). The area was about a mile or so from the AFB runway, not too 
far from where we did the 'runway trip,' about two miles south of 
Kobbe Beach. The drop zone was a small area cleared out of the 
jungle by Rome plows, covering the now open ground, about a 
thousand feet long and maybe two hundred yards wide. The west 
end of the DZ started at the edge of the Pacific Ocean beach front, 
and the east end buffeted right up into the triple canopy jungle tree 
line. Not much room at all for airborne operations. 

Airborne operations were always dicey and unpredictable, as 
was proven during the first combat airborne operations of Operation 
Husky in Sicily in 1943, during WW II, with General 'Jumpin' Jim 
Gavin's 82nd Airborne Division being scattered a hundred miles away 
in all directions from the 
planned drop zone. The same 
held true during Operation 
Overlord, the D-Day Invasion 
of Normandy, and Operation 
Market Garden. 

It took some extensive and 
exacting airborne ops in 
Panama to have the airborne 
troops land safely in this area after exiting a C-130 from a thousand 
feet of altitude. That's why we were there. The winds coming off the 
Pacific Ocean were always unpredictable and could cause havoc for 
airborne troops with parachutes deployed, blowing them into the water 
or into the jungle tree line of the drop zone. 

Our job was to put the small boat into the ocean for water 
patrol. The four of us all donned life jackets and we would be on 
water patrol to immediately help and recover any airborne troops 
that might wind up in the water. It was a very dangerous situation for 
a jumper. A soldier could easily get caught up in his parachute 
rigging, wearing full combat gear including his weapons, once he hit 
the water and could quickly become incapacitated and drown. 

Three of the other seven detailed soldiers took up positions on 
the east end of the drop zone at the tree line, to help locate and 
extricate any soldier who might wind up in the jungle, snagged on a 
tree with his parachute, or to help him find his way out of the jungle. 




DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 165 



if he was so lucky to actually make it to the jungle floor. Some 
pretty dangerous shit for sure. 

We also had a PRC-25 Radio with us so the sergeant in charge 
of the detail could keep in contact with us. About an hour later, as we 
had been in the water waiting the whole time, just kinda ghosting in 
the boat out in the water, we could finally hear the four, roaring turbo 
prop engines of the incoming C-130 aircraft approaching. It was a 
beautiful clear day without a cloud in the sky. The sun was blazing 
bright with the sky as clear powder blue as I have ever seen, and the 
Pacific Ocean water was shimmering a lovely tropical blue-green 
that was just mesmerizing, as the waves gently lapped against the 
side of the boat. And that was an Army work detail? Oh baby, that 
was the life. I could do it every day and enjoy the hell out of it. 

Moments later, we 
could see the aircraft 
approaching the drop 
zone from out of the 
west over the ocean. At 
only a thousand feet 

^^_ ^_^^^.^^.^»_^«^^_ altitude, as the aircraft 

■"S^- — ^^^^^^^^^HUj^^^l passed overhead, we 

could clearly see the jumpmaster leaning out of the side jump door 
looking for the jump point smoke location marker on the ground, 
and then. Bam! In a flash of only seconds, a dozen jumpers in the 
first stick had already exited from the plane, and immediately had 
parachutes with fully deployed canopies over their heads, gently 
floating down to the ground. Within twenty seconds they all landed 
on the ground safely, all except one. It was really a cool sight to see. 

But lo and behold, the first jumper out the door turned out to be 
the lieutenant colonel battalion commander. The commanding 
officer of any airborne or infantry operation would always follow the 
Army infantry slogan of, 'Follow Me. I Am The Infantry J and would 
be the first one to lead his troops into battle, or the first one to 
'stand in the door' during a training jump. 

Guess what? Damn right and sure as shit. The lieutenant 
colonel gets caught in a cross wind, getting his ass blown right into 
the Pacific Ocean. Damn, now we have to quickly react, get the boat 



166 Bud Monaco 



motored over to where he was located about forty yards from where 
we were, grab hold of him and his parachute gear, and drag him into 
the boat with us. Damn, that was the battalion CO! 

We had to get that shit done right and not fuck up in any way or 
form, or our asses would be in a sling once we got back on dry land. 
Another staff sergeant also wound up in the water, but landed in 
shallow, ankle deep water right at the beach front, and did not need 
help, recovering to the beach without our assistance. The colonel 
was lucky as well. He landed in waist deep water, and was not 
in any real danger either. 

We got the colonel into the boat quickly, and he was totally 
gracious for us pulling him out of the water, thanking us immensely 
for doing our job with military precision. We then motored the boat 
to shore, and as the colonel got out of the boat, he told us he would 
personally see to it that the four of us would be given three-day 
passes for a job well-done, and that he was proud of us for 
handling the job properly. 

Now the lieutenant colonel was no candy-ass-wannabe ROTC 
reject. He was a highly-decorated, two-tour Vietnam combat veteran, 
was well on his way to being a full bird colonel, and had designs of 
pinning on his first General Star in a few years to come. He was 
headed for a top command slot somewhere in the Army. He surely 
would be in a top slot at the Pentagon someday in the future as his 
Army career prospered. We all saluted him, and he was on his way to 
the rally position with the rest of the jumpers. Oh baby, that was 
sweet. It also turned out that two other jumpers wound up in the tree 
line. The guys on land recovery detail there were able to get them out 
of the jungle and to their rally points with no problems. We then 
motored the boat back out into the water waiting for the next stick of 
jumpers to arrive. There would be five more sticks of jumpers before 
our detail came to an end that morning. I would request the detail 
anytime it became available over the following months of 
my tour in country. 

After the airborne training exercise was finished, we took the 
boat out of the water, hitched it back up to the deuce and a half truck, 
and headed back to the Motor Pool. Once there, we hosed down the 
boat and motor, washing away the salt water, fueled the motor up 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 167 



with gas, stored it back in the garage, and driven baclc to the 
company area. Well, unknown to us, the word had already gotten 
back to the Battalion and Company areas of how we saved the 
battalion CO. Holy shit, we were instant celebrities. IstSGT Reymeres 
was there to meet us with a big smile on his face. We had made HHC 
look real good in the eyes of the battalion CO, and when HHC looks 
good. Top looked real good also. Then, from across the street, we 
see the battalion sergeant major getting out of his personal jeep, and 
storming his way over to where we were standing. Holy shit, we had 

not met the sergeant major yet, and 
he was a very intense career soldier. 
The sergeant major was a 
three -war combsLi veteran. He was in 
combat in Europe during World War 
II, the Korean War, and had served 
two tours in the Vietnam War. He was 
another extremely highly-decorated 
soldier who had been awarded the 
Army Distinguished Service Medal, 
numerous Silver Stars and Bronze Stars for Valor with Oak Leaf 
Clusters, numerous Purple Hearts, the Soldier's Medal, Army 
Commendation Medals, Air Medals, the Combat Infantry Badge with 
two silver stars representing the three wars he was in, and a host of 
other awards, commendations, and combat campaign ribbons. 

He was also a life-long airborne soldier, and had taken part in 
the morning's airborne operation. He had witnessed us saving the 
battalion CO from the air before he led one of the sticks out of the 
aircraft. One gigantic distinction about him that we were told was 
that he was the only Army airborne soldier to ever make combat jumps 
in three wars, and his Airborne Wings had three silver stars attached 
to them to prove it. The sergeant major was the same size as me 
standing at five foot-seven, but he was built like a Brahma bull with 
a solid body like a beer keg, and weighed around two hundred pounds. 
He was a no-neck guy with his head seemingly attached directly to 
his shoulders. His chiseled, heavy protruding jaw, which looked like 
a house brick, gave his ruddy face of hard lines a satanic twist. His 
eyebrows looked like strands of barbed wire. He had arms like 



168 Bud Monaco 



pistons and legs like construction derricks. His head was shaved 
beyond high and tight, and when he talked, well he never actually 
talked, he kinda bellowed out vocally at all times. He looked savage 
beneath his marble stature. He was absolutely no one to fuck with. 
He could actually be the guy who could rip off your head with his 
bare hands and shit down your neck. Really, that was no shit. He was 
one tough motherfucker and a totally kick-ass career soldier. 

As he walks up to us, IstSGT Reymeres hollers out, 
"Attention!" and the six of us snap to attention immediately, but 
not understanding why we are coming to attention for a 
non-commissioned officer. We were later told by Top that to show 
respect and honor for a high ranking NCO as he was, you would 
always salute him as if he was an officer. Even commissioned 
officers saluted a sergeant major of his status without question. Top 
and the seven of us saluted him like we would salute an officer. 
The sergeant major returned the salute and bellowed out, 
"Stand at ease, men!" 

He then asked Top, "Which of these soldiers saved the battalion 
CO during this morning's training jump, when he wound up making 
a water landing in the ocean?" Top then tells him which four of us 
did that wonderful deed. He turned to us as we were standing at 
parade rest, shaking in our boots, scared shitless like little school 
girls in his presence, standing in front of him. Even though he was 
short in stature, he was an unbelievably imposing man. He said to us, 
"I want to commend you men for an outstanding job you did with 
great initiative, and proving that the soldiers of the 3rd Battalion 5th 
Infantry Regiment are the best trained, most highly motivated 
soldiers on the Isthmus of Panama, and all of the United States 
Southern Command. I personally am authorizing three-day passes 
for all four of you to be effective immediately upon the permission 
of IstSGT Reymeres." With that he bellowed out and said, "That 
will be all!" and we all came to attention again, saluted him, and he 
stormed away back across the street to Battalion Headquarters. 

Holy shit, there we were, four lowly, no-nothing privates that 
really didn't know shit, and just happened to be in the right place at 
the right time to save the battalion CO. You have to understand that 
by saving the CO we really didn't do any big-time saving in reality. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 169 



We were just four dummies in a boat. The CO probably would have 
been fme anyway, as the water he landed in was only chest deep. He 
had done his cut away from the parachute just before he hit the 
water, and was wearing a life jacket, so he was really in 
no immediate danger, and now, we all have double three-day 
passes coming our way. 

We were all as happy as a farmer finding a bag full of money in 
a corn field. With that. Top said to us, "You soldiers now have the 
rest of the day off. Go change out of your fafigues, put on your shorts 
and sandals, and spend the rest of the day at the beach. Now, get out 
of my sight right now on the double before I change my mind." It just 
kept getting better, and we didn't hesitate to bust a move heading to 
the beach. What a great detail it turned out to be. 

When we returned to the barracks that evening, we were all 
the rage. Everyone was talking about what we did and the 
commendafions we received from the battalion CO, the sergeant 
major, and Top. Everyone wanted to hear all the details, and we talked 
about it late into the night. It was a beautiful thing. 

When Friday and the weekend arrived, we had put in for the 
first of our two three-day passes, and they were granted to us by Top. 
I had not been off base since my arrival at Fort Kobbe. I was 
intrigued and looking forward to my first excursion trip to 
downtown Panama City for some rest and relaxaUon (R & R). There 
would be no actual rest at all, but plenty of relaxation. I would have 
all of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday off duty, free to do what I wanted. 
It was going to be a real nice three days. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 171 

Chapter 29 

Panama City: The Asshole Of The World 

''The Army Gives A Young Man The Opportunity 

To Travel To Foreign Lands, 

Meet Foreign People And Learn How To Hate Them, 

After A Short Period Of Timer 

It turned out, as I soon learned, that even if you had a day off and 
were not on duty, you could not sleep in your bunk or hang around 
in the barracks, the company or battalion area. You still had to get up 
with the rest of the troops and leave the company area. The lifers 
didn't want anyone sleeping in or hanging around during duty hours 
while the rest of the troops were working on duty. 

So on Friday morning, the seven of us woke up at dawn as usual, 
and headed out of the barracks. We were on our way to Kobbe Beach 
for the day before we returned to the barracks for dinner mess call, 
cleaned up, put on our civilian clothes and headed downtown later 
that evening. The same routine applied for Saturday morning. 
Saturday mornings were a half-day work day, and usually reserved 
for inspections, but on Sundays a soldier could sleep in all day 
if he wished if he was not assigned any detail duties or was 
scheduled for CQ or guard duty. 

The big night of going to downtown Panama City was now in 
motion, and Louie and I were looking forward to seeing what it was 
all about for the first time. It turned out that a couple of other guys 
were heading downtown also. One of them was the soldier who owned 
the Roadmaster, and he offered us a ride. 

There were two main ways of getting from Fort Kobbe to 
downtown. One way was in a personal vehicle, and the other was 
taking a Panamanian Chiva bus from a bus stop that was located on 
Kobbe Road near the battalion area when the buses were running 
during their scheduled times. A Chiva bus was the main vehicle for 
public transportation in Panama. A Chiva bus was a beat-up, 
old-type school bus, with bench seats. It was painted in many 
different florescent colors, with decorations of many sorts, religious 
statues, dozens of horns and lights attached to it, with brightly 
colored cloth dingle balls, and colored beads hanging all along the 



172 Bud Monaco 



inside of the bus. No two Chiva buses were alike. There were 
hundreds of them storming around Panama City and around the 
countryside at any given time, day or night. 

The Chiva buses were only allowed to come on base during 
certain hours of the day, and after 1 1:45 p.m. they were not allowed 
on base until the next day. So once you were off base past 
1 1:45 p.m., you either had to have transportation in a personal 
vehicle, or take a Panamanian taxi cab back to base. There were 
hundreds and hundreds of cabs available at any time of the day or 
night throughout Panama City, and for a price, a cab driver would 
take you anywhere you wanted to go, from the Pacific side to the 
Atlantic side, and everywhere in between. 

We piled into the Roadmaster, drove down Kobbe Road, and 
exited the base through the main front gate, which was manned by 
armed military police twenty-four hours a day. You needed to show 
your military identification and pass to exit the base, and you would 
need to show your identification to be allowed back on the base when 
you returned. There was no fooling around at the front gate, as they 
kept strict control of who came and went onto or off the base at all 
times, with no exceptions whatsoever. Both Fort Kobbe and Howard 
AFB were highly-restricted and secure areas under constant 
surveillance at all times. 

It was about two miles to the front gate from the Fort Kobbe 
battalion area, then two miles to the Thatcher Ferry Bridge, called 
The Bridge Of The Americas, and another two miles to downtown 
Panama City. I had crossed over the bridge during the truck ride from 
Tocumen Airport to Fort Kobbe, but didn't get a good look at it from 
the back of the truck. Approaching the gigantic bridge, and seeing it 
through the car windows was totally awesome, impressive, and 
beautiful, especially at night with all the lights shining brightly. 

The Bridge Of The Americas spans the Pacific entrance to the 
Panama Canal, connecting North America with South America. The 
bridge was completed in 1962 and was the only non-swinging bridge 
connecting the Americas at that time. There were only two other 
swinging bridges over the Panama Canal located at the Miraflores 
Locks and the Gatun Locks. The Bridge Of The Americas was a key 
part of the Pan American Highway, and it greatly increased road 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 173 



traffic across the Panama Canal. 

The bridge was a cantilever design with the suspended span 
being a tied arch. The bridge's total length was over five thousand 
four hundred feet, and at its highest point, was eight hundred and 
fifty feet above the water. All ships entering or leaving the Panama 
Canal at the Pacific side had to pass under the bridge when 
traversing the canal. Throughout the day or night, numerous vessels 
passed under the bridge, either entering or departing from the Panama 
Canal. There were wide access ramps at each end and pedestrian 
walkways on each side. 

As we approached the main span of the bridge, the driver pulled 
the car into a small-paved lookout point. The guys told Louie and I, 
that as part of our training as FNG cherries for our first trip 
downtown, we had to walk across the bridge. They would meet us on 
the other side or would leave us there to find our own way on foot 
downtown or back to the base. We didn't have much choice in the 
matter, but it was a pretty cool walk over the bridge. We were able to 
look over the sides into the water hundreds of feet below, see the 
canal lane leading to the Miraflores Locks, and see out miles into the 
Pacific Ocean. The magnificent, panoramic view was like looking 
over a vast carpet of water, straight into infinity past 
the horizon. It was an outstanding place to view downtown Panama 
City and the surrounding areas. We actually had a ball walking across 
the bridge, but it was quite a walk. 

The main street into Panama City was called Fourth Of July 
Avenue. It separated Panama City from the U.S. controlled Canal 
Zone, and at that point the Canal Zone city of Balboa was on our left 
and Panama City on our right. The unique name of Fourth Of July 
Avenue was named after a rebel government takeover Coup D'etat 
orchestrated by the United States against a fascist political regime 
that was not favorable to the U.S. in 1968, putting General Omar 
Torrijos into power as President and General of the Panamanian 
Defense Forces. During that short civil war, the U.S. military 
supported Torrijos' Army. The previous Army unit assigned to Fort 
Kobbe, the 508^ Airborne Infantry Regiment, roared down the main 
street in Panama City, lighting up the previous regime Army troops 
with .60 caliber and .50 caliber machine guns mounted on armored 



174 Bud Monaco 



personnel carriers (APCs). It became the turning point of the 
conflict, and the opposition forces quickly surrendered to the 
overwhelming fire power. The street was then aptly renamed Fourth 
Of July Avenue to celebrate the new Panamanian government's 
democracy, just like in the good old U. S. of A. There were still bullet 
holes embedded in one or two of the buildings along Fourth Of July 
Avenue that were left there to represent the successful battle. 

The driver eventually pulled off of the main street and found 
a parking spot on a side street. The main area that the military 
soldiers were allowed to go was the infamous 'K' Street, which was 
a four block area jammed to the gills with bars, pool halls, tattoo 
parlors, restaurants, cheap 
low-cost roach hotels, and 
small novelty shops. The nicer 
parts of Panama City were a 
few blocks away, and had 
some nice hotels, major 
shopping stores, and 
loads of restaurants. There 
were many areas of the 
city that were ojf limits to 
soldiers, with numerous military police patrols keeping 
a watchful eye on everyone. 

We all got out of the car and walked a block or two to K Street. 
K Street was infamous for its nightlife dating back to WW I, but 
mostly during WW II it went well over the top of debauchery and 
decadence, as thousands of military men passed through here on their 
way overseas or upon their return from overseas. The streets were lit 
up with every imaginable kind of neon lights, with dozens and 
dozens of juke joint bars selling cheap booze to GIs, and just about 
every joint had a dozen of B-girls dancing semi-nude on the bars and 
tables. All the B-girls were hookers, and for the right price you could 
arrange to take any one of them to one of the nearby, cheap rat-trap 
hotels for a sexual encounter. 

That part of town ran full-tilt, wide-open with wild abandon, 
twenty-four-seven every day and night of the year. The streets were 
old, sleazy, and dirty, with garbage strewn everywhere, jammed 




DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 175 



packed with hooch cabs, Chiva buses, motorcycles, bicycles, cars, 
and trucks lined up bumper to bumper, with horns honking to the 
high heavens, people talking and hollering, and music blasting out 
the front doors of every bar in an almost deafening cacophony of 
sound. The narrow sidewalks were bustling from the curbs to the 
buildings with scantily dressed women, civilians, soldiers, airmen, 
marines, and sailors looking for action, mostly drunk, or looking for 
the next best thing, whatever that might be. What a wild and 
wide-open den of iniquity this K Street and Panama City was. Louie 
and I were looking on in utter amazement. Neither of us had ever 
seen or heard such sights, even though we were both from 

big American cities. It was 
mind-blowing and truly amazing. 
To put it all in perspective in 
regards to a few other big cities of 
the world, Chicago was called the 
City of Big Shoulders, Bangkok 
was known as the Great City of 
Angels, New York was the 
City That Never Sleeps, the 
Micronesian city of Nan Madol 
was called the Venice of the Pacific, Rome was the Crossroads of the 
World, Paris was the City Of Lights, Saigon was the Pearl of the 
Orient, but as I saw it, Panama City was the Asshole of the World. 
There were a few nice areas of Panama City, but mainly, the 
downtown area was surrounded by some of the worst slums and 
ghettos the world has ever known. 

Many of the citizens of Panama City lived in absolute squalor, 
with ramshackle, broken down, fifty-year-old wooden buildings 
being their only haven from the desolated neighborhoods and streets 
where they lived. Rancid sewer water ran down the streets 
overflowing onto what sidewalks there were, if any, which seemed 
to have no central system of plumbing or sanitation control. Garbage 
was piled up ten feet high everywhere, and there was always 
a permeated odor of rotting garbage and urine in the air. Whatever 
wealth there was going on in Panama City, it surely was not being 
spread around evenly. It was a dog-eat-dog city, and you had to be on 




176 Bud Monaco 



your toes and on guard for yourself at all times, or you could get 
robbed, beaten, or worse, at the drop of a hat. Those were some real 
mean streets, and offered no quarter to anyone, military 
or civilian alike. 

One of the main reasons for the aggressions of the locals, and 
them not being fond of the American presence or the GIs in their 
city, was because many of the civilian Americans and the GIs were 
arrogant, elitist, and had plenty of money to throw around for booze, 
dope, and whores. The locals did not have two nickels to rub 
together, and resented the superior attitude that the Americans taunted 
them with all the time. Those young men and some of the older men 
as well, did not take a shine to that at all. They did not have squat or 
jack shit, and most of them were jobless, trying to hustle a buck 
anyway they could. If the situation presented itself, any American, 
especially GIs, were fair game for them to attack and rob. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 177 



Chapter 30 

''A Lot Of What You Fancy Can Be A Lot Of Fun. 
A Lot Of What You Fancy Can Cause A Lot Of Grief" 

But yet there we were in that maze of decadence, out on the town 
looking for action. We walked down the crowded K Street, 
entered a bar that the other guys had frequented before, found a table, 
sat down, and before we were even in our seats, a scantily dressed 
Panamanian waitress was hovering over us, asking us in broken 
English with a heavy Spanish accent what we wanted to drink. Being 
it was Central America, rum and cola was the drink of choice, and 
we all ordered the same. Within minutes, the waitress was back at 
the table with our drinks. We paid for the booze, and she was off to 
the next table to push some more booze on other soldiers. 

There was rock music blasting out very loud over a sound 
system, and there were some almost naked B-girls seductively 
dancing on the bar. The place was packed with military guys 
wall-to-wall. The first song I remember bouncing through my head, 
as my first drink of rum and cola started to take effect was, 'Sookie, 
Sookie, Sookie Sue,' by Steppenwolf And I swear to that day, this 
was the only song that was ever played. They played that song over 
and over all the time, and no one ever seemed to care, as the B-girls 
continued to dance and gyrate to the music. 

The waitress returned and we ordered another round of booze, 
continuing to put on the dog, getting buzzed, whooping and 
hollowing, as the room and its occupants rocked the joint to its 
foundation. Then one of the B-girls approached our table where the 
six of us were sitting, and blatantly said to us without hesitation in 
broken English, "Hey, you GIs, you want me to fucky sucky? I fucky 
sucky real good for you." Well knock me down with a feather. I had 
never been propositioned like that in my short life and busted out 
laughing. One of the guys told her we ain't interested right now, but 
maybe later, and sent her away for the time being. 

The guys tell me and Louie the routine if we want to get a blow 
job and get fucked by that whore or any of her hooker friends. They 
said if we went with a hooker, we should go two at a time with two 
broads, while the other guys waited for us at the bar. The hookers 



178 Bud Monaco 



would take us to a near-by roach hotel a few doors away from the 
bar, and it would cost twenty bucks. They told us to have the twenty 
bucks in our side pocket, and to put the rest of our dough into our 
shoes with our military identification. Do your thing with the hooker, 
keep your shoes and pants close at hand, and get out of there as soon 
as possible, because we were not actually allowed to facilitate 
prostitutes according to military law. Ha, what a travesty of military 
law that was, as every swinging dick on K Street was doing exactly 
that. The old proverbial line of just don 't get caught was in effect. 

Being just over twenty years old, I hadn't had many sexual 
encounters during my teenage years, or while in the Army over the 
past seven months. So I was all hyped up to get me some of that 
before the night was over, one way or another. I was so horny my 
dick could get hard with the wind blowing. The B-girl eventually 
shows back up at our table. Louie and I tell her we want her to get 
one of the other girls that were dancing on the bar that caught Louie's 
eye to go with us to a hotel for sucky fucky. So she waves over her 
friend. She comes over to the table and said, "You GIs want to sucky 
fucky?" We said yes, agreed on the price, and headed out of the bar 
with the two hookers hanging onto our arms like we were on dates. 

Let me say this, both of those women were no ugly dogs at all, 
and were actually very attractive. Small, five foot four, young, dark 
Spanish skinned, big brown eyes, beautiful tits just about fully 
hanging out of open blouses, great looking legs sprouting out from 
underneath their micro-mini skirts, so short you could see the cheeks 
of their asses, wearing five inch fuck-me-pump high heels, 
their perfume tantalizing us, and just raring to do some sucky 
fucky for twenty bucks. 

About a block away from the bar, as we walked through the 
throngs of people on the street, we entered a half-open hallway door 
that led up a flight of crooked, dilapidated wooded stairs to a 
landing. There was an old, ancient looking, gray-haired hootch woman 
sitting on a chair behind a small wooden table with a stack of white 
sheets on it. She says nothing to us, and the hookers tell us to give 
her three dollars each for use of two sheets and the two rooms. We 
give her the dough, and the broads lead us down a long hallway lined 
with doors and all the paint peeling off of the walls. That 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 179 



whorehouse had not been painted or repaired in decades for sure. 
Then, my broad opens a door to a single room with no windows, and 
Louie goes into the next room with his broad. 

Once inside the room, the whore says to me, "Give me money 
before we start," and I gave her the twenty bucks. She puts the dough 
into her purse, and in a heartbeat she had what httle clothes she was 
wearing off, and was quickly naked. Damn, was she pretty, and 
I quickly followed suit removing my shoes, pants, underwear, and 
Bam! We were on the bed that she had covered the bare 
mattress with the sheet. 

There was no foreplay or making out, as she got right down to 
business. She laid on her back and we did the deed. Oh baby, was 
that sweet. I couldn't believe how good it felt. I knew right then and 
there that I wanted to do a lot of this for the rest of my life, and 
hopefully not have to pay a hooker for it. 

She then, somewhat quickly, pushed me off of her, went over to 
a small table next to the bed which had a bowl and a pitcher of water 
on it, put the bowl on the floor, poured the water into the bowl, 
squatted over the bowl, and started to splash the water up into her 
pussy douching herself out. Wow, this was something I had never 
seen, and she did it as with plenty of practice, finished, wiped herself 
dry with a towel that was on the table, and said, "That's it, GI, get 
dressed and we go now." 

Wham, bam, thank you ma'am! Just like that, it was over and 
we were out of the room, down the stairs, back out on the street 
walking back to the bar. Louie was right out of his room at the 
same time with his broad. 

They must have had some kind of timing signal radar between 
them to finish and get out at the same Ume with their tricks. Those 
were well-practiced prostitutes who knew their business well. 
Thinking about how she douched herself out, brought to my mind 
how many other men had banged her, and I hoped, by now too late, 
that I didn't wind up catching the clap from her having a sexual 
encounter with a seasoned, well-fucked prosfitute. It was too late 
for regrets now and I didn't dwell on it. I was riding my high 
horse and had a ball with it all. 

Back at the bar, the other guys were still at the same table 



180 Bud Monaco 



drinking with the music continuing to blast out of the speakers. We 
ordered another round and started bragging about our sex with the 
hookers. We were on the top of the world, sexually satisfied, buzzed 
on the booze, spending time hooting and laughing with our Army 
buddies, and enjoying every minute of it. Two of the other guys then 
went through the same routine, collecting up two different hookers, 
left the bar, showed back up less than an hour later, bragging about 
the same sex stories that we were still bragging about. What a circus, 
and we couldn't get enough of it, as the B-girls continued to sexually 
gyrate their bodies and dance on the bar. And as the music continued 
to blast out in the bar, 'Sookie, Sookie, Sookie Sue,' was still the song 
of choice, seemingly playing in a continuous loop. 
What a memorable first trip to downtown Panama City to be 
remembered for years to come. 

Sometime later, having so much fun without even being aware 
of the time, it was now past midnight, and the guys said it was time 
to head back to Fort Kobbe to call it a night. We found our way out of 
the bar, walked back through the still jammed-packed streets to where 
the car was parked, clambered into the Roadmaster, and drove out of 
the K Street area, down Fourth Of July Avenue, back over The Bridge 
Of The Americas, pulled up to the front gate of the base, showed our 
military identifications to the MPs on duty, drove down Kobbe Road 
to the battalion area, parked the car, and went back into our barracks 
to sleep off the booze, getting some much-needed rest. What a night 
to remember, and that was only Friday night. We were going to do it 
all over again tomorrow, on Saturday night. 

There was also so much more of Panama City, Panama and the 
Canal Zone to explore, that it would take months to take it all in. Oh 
baby, that was the life. I just reveled in it, and my good fortune for 
having such a successful evening of hanging out with the guys, 
drinking some booze, and having sex. Army life wasn't so bad after 
all. Ha, it was nice, but Army life had many totally fucked up 
times ahead to knock my dick in the dirt in the following 
months during my tour. 

With the sights, lights, sounds, and intensity of Panama City 
rattling around in my head, I took a quick shower to clean off the 
scum of the city and the prostitute from my body, and dozed off into 
a much-needed deep sleep. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 181 



I guess some readers will fmd some of my writing crass, vulgar, 
raw-boned, and not take a shine to my text, but I have always used 
colorful and explicit language my whole life with my words and 
dialogue. I just never took the time, or figured out how to put it down 
in writing, until recently finding my style through the rantings and 
debauchery of some of the greatest entertainers in the world. 

Namely, some of these entertainers are Andrew Dice Clay, 
Lenny Bruce, Dennis Miller, Robin Williams, Dennis Leary, 
George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Bill Maher, Chris Rock, Richard Pryor, 
Ken Kesey, Tom Wolfe, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, Red Foxx, The 
Last Poets, Jack Nicholson, Sam Kinison, and Freddie Mercury, just 
to name a few. Anyone familiar with the above named entertainers 
will understand my dialogue. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 183 



Chapter 31 



Saturday morning came and I was early out of my rack after dawn 
as usual, still having two days left on my three-day pass, and 
I headed back down to Kobbe Beach with some of the guys for the 
day. During the evening, instead of heading to downtown Panama 
City, four of the other guys and me hopped on a Chiva bus on base, 
and went for an excursion into Balboa City in the Canal Zone. Balboa 
was like a magically transplanted American city. It was populated in 
housing mostly by American military men and their families referred 
to as dependents who were allowed to live off base, American 
politicians, advisors and ambassadors, as well as all the American 
civilians who worked performing jobs in the complex operations 
of the Panama Canal. 

Balboa and the adjoining military area of Corazal had all the 
unique amenities of a small American city, with shopping areas, 
a gas and vehicle service station, grocery stores, a barber shop, a 
hair-dresser shop, boutiques for women, restaurants, a semi-upscale 
bar or two, a movie theater, medical facilities, and a large Post 
Exchange (PX), that was open for shopping to anyone with 
a military ID or American civilian ID. Balboa had its own court house, 
government and political operations, supporting its own Canal Zone 
Police Force made up exclusively of only Panamanian-born 
American men enforcing American law and order. Their main job 
was keeping out the riff-raff of low-life Panamanians living in 
squalor on the other side of the fence line across Fourth Of July 
Avenue from entering the secure confines of the Canal Zone. 

First order of the evening was to go to an American-styled fast 
food restaurant where we ate the best damn American cheese burgers 
and french fries with all the fixings, and cold glasses, with ice cubes, 
of Coca Cola that was not available in many places in Panama. It was 
heaven, and we wolfed down those burgers and fries like we hadn't 
eaten in days. What a wonderful time we had at that joint. 

Next, we headed over to the movie theater and watched two 
newly released movies, 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,' 
starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, and 'True Grit J starring 
The Duke' himself, John Wayne. That was a great fime as these 
were the first movies I had been able to see since I was drafted seven 



184 Bud Monaco 



months earlier. With the hamburgers and the movies it was just like 
being back home in Chicago. It was an outstanding time 
and great enjoyment apart from the rigors of Army life, even 
if it was short lived. 

When we came out of the movie theater, we all had the itch and 
started to consider going back down to K Street but thought better of 
it not having much dough left from Friday night, plus what we had 
spent for the food and movies, so we decided to head back to 
Fort Kobbe while the Chiva buses were still running for cheap 
transportation. Arriving back at the barracks, we burned a 
Johnson, listened to some music, wrote a letter or two, shot the bull, 
and called it a night. 

Sunday morning rolled around and it was nice to be able to 
sleep in for a change. This was a day off for everyone, and there was 
no roll call or reveille to have to deal with. The mess hall was still on 
its daily schedule. That never changed. If you wanted breakfast, you 
had to get up early. Once breakfast mess call time passed, you would 
have to wait until lunch mess call for food. There was a decent 
restaurant at the AFB PX building, and you could get a burger or a 
sandwich if you did not want to eat mess hall food if you had any 
dough in your pocket. It wasn't half-bad, and we would eat there 
quite often whenever the time permitted. It was only a twenty minute 
walk from our barracks. 

Just about everyone in the barracks bay slept in until late in the 
morning and the main entertainment for the rest of the day would be 
another trip down to Kobbe Beach. We spent a lot of time at Kobbe 
Beach and never tired of it. Sunday day and the evening passed 
quickly, and come Monday morning, I would be initiated into some 
actual infantry operations during the coming week. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 185 



Chapter 32 

Four Deuce: Live Fire 

1 would now learn what the 4.2" mortar platoon operations 
consisted of, and also get my first real initiation to the jungle, 
as a full battalion training exercise was scheduled, including two 
days and nights out in the field. It would be no walk in the sun and 
not the least bit pretty at all. Now the real deal Army shit was about 
to hit the proverbial fan. It would be interesting, but not a whole lot 
of fun, as the lifers took training maneuvers very seriously. The 

training maneuvers would all 
be done by the book. Every 
swinging dick would have to 
take part and do their jobs or 
have hell to pay. All passes, 
days off, and appointments 
were canceled, and everyone 
would stand muster at roll call 
for the rest of the week to complete the mission. The lifers reveled in 
those training maneuvers, but the lower ranking soldiers hated them 
because the grunts would be doing all the heavy lifting. Turned out, 
it really wasn't pretty at all. You just had to soldier on and deal with it. 
First order of the day, after reveille, roll call, PT, and breakfast 
mess call, the 4.2" mortar platoon assembled in the Platoon bay with 
full combat gear. Five drivers were dispatched to the Motor Pool to 
sign out the trucks for transporting the platoon and the big guns to 
Empire Range for a live fire exercise. In the Platoon bay, the platoon 
sergeant had us disassemble the guns, pack up the miscellaneous 
equipment, and load everything into the trucks. Each gun squad was 
designated to ride in specified vehicles, and we were off to Empire Range. 
At the range, at a designated location, we unloaded the four guns, 
spacing them out on line with specified distances between each gun. 
The ammo supply driver showed up with a deuce and a half truck loaded 
to the gills with dozens of wooden ammo boxes filled with 4.2" mortar 
rounds, and separate boxes of explosive secondary fuses that would be 
attached to the bottom of a round for exacting explosive power to land a 
mortar round right where it needed to go down range. 



186 Bud Monaco 



The four guns were reassembled, with shallow base plate holes 
dug, and properly placed on the firing line. The sighting sticks were 
placed out in front of each gun, and we then unloaded the ammo 
boxes from the truck, with the prescribed amount of boxes being 
located near each gun emplacement. Then, each gun crew began to 
break open the ammo boxes and stack the hundreds of high 
explosive mortar rounds, very carefully at that, in the correct 
proximity to the gun emplacements. 

There were two kinds of mortar rounds we used: High 
Explosive (HE), and White Phosphorus (WP), also known as Willie 
Peter. HE rounds had a fifty yard kill zone, and WP had the same kill 
or burn zone. These HE and WP rounds would rain down death from 
above when properly sent down range onto enemy troops or targets. 
It was all done under the supervision and very watchful eye of the 
platoon sergeant, and a newly assigned platoon officer lieutenant. 

We had never even met the officer up until now. SSGT Packardie 
knew his business well and he was the NCO in charge (NCOIC) of 
all the mechanics of the mortar platoon operations for live fire 

exercises. The new lieutenant was 
tt more or less just attentively 

^^k standing around trying to look 

^^t important. I don't think he had any 

^M^ previous experience as a mortar 

^F man, and he was learning the trade 

^^ right alongside us FNG cherries. 

The old timer guys knew the ropes, 
having done it numerous times 
before in training, and were teaching us things we needed to know as 
we went along in preparation for the upcoming live fire exercise. 

Once the gun emplacements were set up, ammo at the ready, 
the fire direction control man had the gun sight operators dial in the 
gun sights with preliminary sightings on the sighting sticks, 
re-checked the sightings on his FDC board, and then we were ready 
to rock and roll. The platoon sergeant told us to take a short break, as 
we had to wait for the daily assigned Empire Range safety officer 
(RSO) to show up to make sure everything was set up properly and 
by the book. The RSO would make sure there was no one down range 




DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 187 



for any reason, clear the live firing with the proper authorities, 
whoever the hell they might be, and then he would give the all clear 
to start the live fire exercise. 

Then, we were all ordered to take our places with our 
designated gun crews and waited for the order to 'hang one round 
and fire for registration.' The first rounds from each gun would be 
fired from a preliminary set sight location to see where they 
would land down range where there were dozens of blown up 
vehicles used for targets. 

I was detailed as an ammo bearer at that time, and when the 
platoon sergeant shouted out the command from his position between 
guns two and three, located here so that all four gun emplacements 
could hear his commands and he could keep total visual contact with 
all four guns, "Is the firing line clear on the right? Is the firing line 
clear on the left?" The gun crew chiefs shouted back at him, "The 
firing line on the left and the firing line on the right are clear." The 
platoon sergeant then shouted out, "The firing line is clear," and 
gave the order to, ''Hang one rounds 

Now it was really getting exciting for us FNG cherries, and there 
was surely excitement aroused in all the old timers as well. It was 
serious business. Everyone had to be dead nuts on with performing 
their jobs exactly as prescribed. Any soldier, or many soldiers, could 
get killed or seriously wounded real quick in a heartbeat if anyone 
did not function properly and exactly as designated. 

I picked up one live mortar round, handed it to the gunner, who 
placed the mortar round, firing pin and fuse, bottom-end first of 
course, into the opening at the top of the gun barrel, holding it steady 
with both hands, but not releasing it just yet. When the platoon 
sergeant was satisfied that everything and everyone was good to go, 
he gave the command, ''Fire one round for registration^ and the 
gunners released the mortar rounds into the tubes. Bam! Bam! Bam! 
Bam! The rounds shot out of the four tubes with loud explosions, 
which had a somewhat muffled pahrump, but still loud enough to 
blow out your ears. We waited a few seconds, as it took a round 
about ten seconds to exit the tube with its arched trajectory taking it 
down range and exploding near the targets. Bam, Bam, Bam, Bam! 
The four registration rounds exploded down range. They were all 



188 Bud Monaco 



very close, within a few yards of the targets right out the gate. This 
4.2" mortar platoon had their shit together, and after only the first 
rounds fired, I felt real proud to be a part of that stract platoon. 

The FDC guy in the back of the FDC truck bed then sighted in 
the landed rounds down range with his spotting scope, did a quick 
fire direction adjustment and shouted the adjustments back to the 
gun sight operators. "Gun number one, two clicks left, one click 
elevation," and so on, commanding the sight adjustments to the other 
three guns. The commands were quickly done by the gun sight 
operators, and the platoon sergeant shouted, 'Tire for effect, twenty 
rounds," and as quickly as I and the 
other ammo bearers could pick up 
rounds from the stacks and hand 
them to the gunner, the gunners 
dropped them into the gun tubes, 
quickly turning back to the ammo 
bearers to take the next round 
and hanging fire. 

Bam, Bam, Bam, Bam! All 
four guns were blazing at once, and 
each gun went through the first 
twenty rounds in about a minute. Down range, after rounds exploded, 
became a cauldron of deadly destruction, as all eighty rounds 
exploded seconds apart, blowing the living shit out of the targets and 
the ground immediately around the targets. Goddamned, every round 
was just about dead nuts on. It was a great sight to see with all the 
explosions continuing with a ferocity that was just awesome. Wow, 
was that cool. The firing of the guns had kicked up dirt and dust from 
around the base plates, and the pungent smell of cordite filled our 
nostrils and throats, permeating the air all around us. It was really 
something being a part of a live fire. Seeing and hearing the 
deafening explosions tearing the hell up of everything down range, 
especially the smell of gunpowder and cordite, was actually 
very thrilling and exhilarating. 

Once the roar of the explosions died down, the platoon sergeant 
shouted out, "Cease fire. Cease fire. Is the firing line clear on the 
left? Is the firing line clear on the right?" The gun crew chiefs shouted 




DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 189 



back at him, 'The firing hne is clear on the right and clear on the 
left," and he responded back, "The firing line is clear," and everyone 
started hooping and hollering, slapping each other on the back, 
congratulating each other for a perfectly performed 4.2" mortar live 
fire mission. It was really cool. Even the platoon sergeant and the 
lieutenant walked over to each gun emplacement telling everyone 
what a good job they had done. 

The platoon sergeant then told everyone to take a ten minute 
water and smoke break. When the ten minutes were up, he ordered 
everyone back to their gun positions. For the next fire mission, the 
ammo bearers and the gunners would switch positions, but the gun 
sight operator would continue as he was. It was my turn to hang fire, 
and if I was excited before, the adrenalin was pumping real good 
through my veins now. 

As we were getting prepared for the next live fire mission, the 
HHC CO and IstSGT arrived at the range, unexpected and unbe- 
known by any of us lower ranking soldiers at least, in a jeep with the 
driver pulling the jeep right up near the firing line. Oh shit, here 
comes the chicken shit CO with Top in tow, and if we were on our 
toes before, we would really have to be sharp and perfect to the maxi- 
mum now. The platoon sergeant and the lieutenant went over to them 
as they climbed out of the jeep, came to attention and smartly saluted 
the CO. They talked briefly about the fire missions as the four of 
them walked up and down the firing line with the IstSGT. Top 
acknowledged the troops and asked everyone how the fire missions 
were coming along. But the stick-up-his-ass CO couldn't be 
bothered with any such trivial acknowledgements of us low-life 
scum grunts, acting like we didn't exist. 

Everyone knew he was a total, useless jackoff, and it didn't bother 
any of us in the least. The fewer acknowledgements from him, the 
better for us. It would turn out, only a short time later that he would 
be relieved of his command, and sent to another unit to become 
someone else's problem. That was the Army's way of shlocking 
a useless soldier, officer or enlisted man, out of a command when 
necessary. Too bad for whatever unit wound up with him once he 
was out of the previous command's hair, as long as he was gone 
was all that mattered. 



190 Bud Monaco 



Now everyone was once again positioned properly, and SSGT 
Packardie went through the Uve firing routine prehminaries. When 
he gave the command to, "Hang one round," the ammo bearer handed 
me a live mortar round, and I proceeded to hang one round, waiting 
for the command to, ''Fire one round!' When the order came to, 
''Fire one round'' I was holding the round in the top of the gun tube, 
released it with a hand sweeping motion that I had seen the previous 
gunner do, crouched down putting my hands over my ears, and the 

r-— n round blasted out of the gun tube 
with a thumping explosion. Wow! 
' ' ' ~ '^ -^ Was that cool as the dirt kicked 
up around me, and I felt the 
compression and vibration of the 
ground under my combat boots. 
Damn, let's dance! As soon as the 
round exploded down range, the 
platoon sergeant gave the command, 
"Fire for effect, twenty rounds." 
Bam, Bam, Bam, Baml All four guns 
exploded with effecting fire blasting out all twenty rounds from each 
gun in a flash. It was just as cool as the first fire mission, seeing and 
hearing all the rounds land down range, blowing the living shit 
out of whatever what was left of the targets. I could do it all 
day and still enjoy it. 

Once the final rounds exploded, the platoon sergeant cleared 
the firing line and reported back to the CO and Top. They talked for 
a bit about the fire mission, then the platoon sergeant and the 
lieutenant came to attention, saluted the CO, and the CO and Top got 
back into their jeep and split. Good riddance to the CO, but it 
would have been nice to have Top out on the firing line with us 
for the next fire mission. 

For the final fire mission of the day, the FNG cherries would be 
taught how the gun sight operator used the gun sight, with one of the 
old guys watching over our every move. I was selected to be the gun 
sight operator for the gun emplacement I was assigned to. I sat on an 
empty ammo box, and was shown how to look into the sight, lining 
up the cross hairs on a spot on the sighting stick, which was planted 




DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 191 



in the ground about ten yards in front of the gun. Then the Hve fire 
procedure was enacted again by the platoon sergeant, and each time 
a round was fired, I would have to keep my eye in the eyepiece and 
continue to adjust the cross hairs on the proper sighting stick spot by 
rotating the two adjusters on the gun tri-pod for windage and 
elevation, using both hands, keeping the gun firing down range and 
on target. That was pretty cool also, as the gun was exploding with 
each round, and my head and face were right up next to the gun tube 
with the ground jarring me with every round leaving the tube. Damn, 
it was not getting old or boring at all. 

Being a part of the operation of those big-ass 4.2" mortars in 
live fire action for the first time was stunning. I loved it. With further 
thought, it came to mind that our 4.2" mortar platoon was only 
one of three 4.2"mortar platoons that would be in actual 
combat together with the other two Battalion Regiments of the 193rd 
Infantry Brigade during a full battalion combat operation. Throw in 
the dozens of .81 mm mortars that the other nine line companies of 
the Brigade's heavy weapons platoons would have in action, along 
with the six .106 mm recoilless rifle cannons of the recon platoons, 
and the six .105 mm and .75 mm Howitzers of the field artillery unit 
blasting away, there would be no quarter for any enemy on the 
receiving end of a barrage of the likes brought about by the 193rd 
Infantry Brigade, bringing down devastating and overwhelming fire 
power and death from above. It was truly astounding. 

With the final fire mission completed and all the ammo used up, 
we began to break down the guns, load them along with the other 
gear back into the trucks, and we piled into the truck beds heading 
back to Fort Kobbe. Now, a unique quietness and stillness once again 
came over Empire Range. The rampaging rage of U.S. Army 
fire power fell quiet and only the sounds of the trucks' engines 
were heard over the range. 

Back at Fort Kobbe, we unloaded the guns and equipment back 
into the 4.2" Mortar bay, and were told that the mess hall had kept 
a late lunch available for us, even though it was past lunch mess call 
time. We ate, and quickly returned to the Mortar bay to clean the 
guns, and perform maintenance on the equipment. 

Every inch of the guns, tubes, tri-pods, base plates, and sights 



192 Bud Monaco 



had to be meticulously cleaned with metal solvents, the gun tubes 
swabbed out properly, cleaned further with more metal solvents, and 
cleaned of the solvents with clean rags. We applied a light coat of 
gun oil sparingly to every inch of all the gun parts. The guns were 
then reassembled and put in their exact places on the bay floor, and 
the FNG cherries were then given the next scut detail job. That being 
us driven down to the Motor Pool to properly park in a perfect line, 
clean, wash, gas up, check tire pressures, check oil and fluid 
levels, and wash out the truck beds of the vehicles we had used 
for the training exercise. 

The fun ended once we left the range, and this part of the 
training sucked. You just had to soldier on, get the job done, and 
head back to the company area. By now it was time for dinner mess 
call, so we all hit the mess hall, ate, and we had the rest of the night 
off. What a great day it was, even with all the hard work, and with the 
sound of the explosions of the 4.2" mortars still ringing in my ears, 
I slept very soundly once I was able to fall asleep. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 193 



Chapter 33 

3rd Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment 
Combat Training Operations 

''Jungles Were Created For Animals To Live In. 

Man Can 7 Start From A Jungle 's Center 

You Have To Start At The Jungle's Edge. 

Then Rome Plow Your Way In.'*'* 

The week went by quickly without much going on except the 
daily routines in and around the company area. But when the 
following Monday rolled around, after the daily morning routines, 
there was a bustle of activity going on in our company area, and all 
around the battalion. None of the lifers, sergeants or officers, told us 
what was up, as the mortar platoon was ordered to the Mortar bay, 
directed to clean the guns, get all the equipment in proper order and 
ready to go at a moment's notice. Through the grapevine of Army 
scuttlebutt, scuttlebutt being more of a Navy term, some information 
leaked down through the chain of command, more so known as the 
chain of deceit, that we might be having a full-blown Combat Alert 
and Combat Ready Reaction exercise. The old timers just knew that 
was the case, and they all started bitching and moaning about what 
we were going to have to do during an upcoming operation of that sort. 

After spending the morning hours working in the Mortar bay, 
after lunch mess call we were all told to go to the Armorer's vault, 
sign out our weapons, take them into the barracks to be cleaned and 
oiled, and to get all our combat gear in proper order. The rest of the 
day was spent doing just that. Hours later, late in the afternoon, the 
platoon sergeant inspected our weapons and our combat gear, and 
instructed us to return our weapons to the Armorer's vault. 

During the evening there was quite a buzz going around the 
barracks, as the old timers were telling us that whatever was going to 
happen, would probably happen real soon, most likely in the 
morning. The information turned out to be dead nuts on. Sometime 
around 3:00 a.m., the CQ came busting into the barracks bay, turning 
on all the lights and yelling at everyone to wake up, and get out of 
our racks. The battalion was having a full-blown Combat Alert. 

Everyone was up and moving quickly as the platoon sergeant 



194 Bud Monaco 



came roaring into the barracks. He was already in his full combat 
gear, yelling at everyone to, "Get dressed, get your combat gear on, 
and immediately fall out into formation in the company area. Right 
now! Let's move, move, move," he screamed at us. We all quickly 
busted ass to get our shit together, head downstairs and into formation. 

The battalion area was already full of activity with the soldiers 
of HHC falling into formation, as well as the troops of Battalion 
Headquarters, A Company, B Company, and C Company. After a 
quick roll call, a support truck driver pulled up and picked up the 
individual platoon vehicle drivers taking them to the Motor Pool to 
get all the HHC platoon vehicles fired up and driven back 
to the company area. 

While we were waiting for our mortar platoon vehicles to 
arrive, the rest of us scrambled into the Mortar bay, disassembled the 
big guns, and moved them outside along with all the mortar platoon 
equipment. Our trucks arrived within minutes. We quickly loaded up 
the guns and equipment and were ready to roll. We then were 
ordered to the Armorer's vault to sign out our weapons and return 
to our designated area. It had all taken less than forty-five 
minutes since first call. 

It was amazing, and somewhat surreal, that it was happening so 
fast. The rest of the battalion was also loaded up, as the support trucks, 
officers and senior NCO's jeeps for Battalion Headquarters, A, B, 
and C Companies were all ready to roll out. It was a sight to behold, 
seeing damn near a thousand soldiers in full combat gear with 
weapons, and dozens and dozens of vehicles loaded up in full 
combat readiness ready to roll into a full Combat Alert. 

A Combat Alert was an operation for the battalion to facilitate 
a total Ready Reaction Combat Force to defend and protect the 
Panama Canal and its environs of the Canal Zone from any intruders, 
rebel forces, or foreign military attack. And let me tell you, the 193rd 
Infantry Brigade and the 3rd Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment was 
ready to rock and roll, kick ass and take names without hesitation or 
any drag-assing, in a very short period of time. 

It was still dark out. The morning sun was still a few hours 
away when the battalion commanding officer gave the command, 
"Battalion! Move out!" In perfect previously prescribed sequence. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 195 



all the battalion vehicles followed the CO's jeep out of the battalion 
area, and headed out to an undisclosed location somewhere deep in 
the nearby Panamanian jungle. 

Within less than an hour, after following a small jungle road not 
very far from Fort Kobbe, the trucks started to disperse along the 
road preparing to dismount the troops, weapons, and equipment to 
set up the battalion combat area of operation. The line Companies 
of A, B, and C were being dispersed widely around the Battalion 
Headquarters area during that time. When our HHC vehicles arrived 
at our designated location, the Army engineers were already on site 
with their gigantic Rome plows cutting large swaths of jungle away, 
clearing an area for Battalion Headquarters to set up a command post. 

The Rome plows twenty foot wide plow blades were knocking 
down trees and bush like pick-up sticks, gouging out and tearing 
apart the pristine jungle into a large area for the Battalion 
Headquarters Command Post to operate. It was really something to 
see, as parts of the triple canopy jungle got plowed over, knocked 
down, and pushed back into the tree lines in a matter of minutes. The 
Army engineers operating the Rome plows were having a ball 
ripping the shit out of the jungle. They seemed to revel in their jobs. 

It was still dark out, but the first traces of a partially gray dawn 
were starting to break through the black Panamanian night sky. 
It was an eerie sight, seeing the beams of Rome plow headlights 
shining on the jungle expanse, as they plowed through numerous 
layers of the jungle. Many of the sergeants and officers had their 
flashlights glowing in the dark all around. Officers and NCOs had 
maps spread out on the hoods of jeeps with radio communications 
squawking all over the area. With hundreds of troops dismounting 
from the trucks, and sergeants screaming out orders, the area 
was full of bustling activity, as soldiers were locating areas of 
operation and unloading vehicles. 

We were told to park our mortar platoon vehicles nearby, and as 
soon as the Rome plows were done clearing the area, we were 
ordered to set up a battalion defensive perimeter. As 1 stSGT Reymeres 
gave orders to SSGT Packardie, as well as the other platoon 
sergeants, the mortar platoon and some of the other HHC platoon 
soldiers, were dispersed around the now located set-up area of 



196 Bud Monaco 



Battalion Headquarters Command Post in a large circle, right 
up to the disgorged jungle tree line, and told to, "Dig in and take 
up fighting positions." 

The area was now about fifty yards wide by fifty yards deep. 
We were paired off into two-man fighting positions, five yards apart, 
and started digging foxholes, which had to be dug at least shoulder 
deep, and wide enough for two soldiers to stand in, with enough 
room to fire our weapons at any attacking forces. It turned out to be 
no small endeavor. Once we dug the first foot or two, with just the 
first signs of early morning light breaking out over the area, the ground 
became wet and muddy. The base of the jungle floor was always wet 
and muddy from the constant tropical rains, and with the triple canopy 
jungle overhead, not much 
sun reached the jungle floor 
to dry it out. 

The digging became a 
real ass busting chore, using 
only our, just about useless. 
Army issued M-1943 
Entrenching Tools, not being 
able to move much dirt and 
mud with each shovel full, as its small, six inch wide shovel blade 
and twenty inch long wooden handle, was pretty much 
ineffective, one little scoop at a time. It seemed to take forever to 
dig even a few inches. 

Within minutes, we were soaking wet with sweat and covered 
with mud from head to toe. It was already around ninety degrees, 
with the jungle humidity definitely topping out near a hundred 
percent. As we dug further into the ground, an ungodly, rotten smell, 
started to permeate the area, as the rotting, undisturbed vegetation 
was being unearthed. The rotting vegetation had probably been 
fermenting in the ground since the dawn of time, and the smell of it 
would be around for the duration of the exercise. There was no 
getting away from it. It continued to gag everyone until we 
somewhat got a little used to the smell. But it never went away. 
It was enough to gag a maggot! 

When we were finished digging our foxholes, Top came around 




DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 197 



with the platoon sergeant to inspect them. Then we were instructed 
to cut away ten-yard sections of the jungle brush with machetes in 
front of the foxholes to make temporary firing lanes, which we would 
expand later once the area was secure. This was another pain in the 
ass out there swinging three foot long machetes, chopping and 
insanely hacking away at the jungle brush, which was as thick as, 
well what else, thick as triple canopy jungle brush. 

The perimeter set-up was also going on all around the Battalion 
Command Post by the three line Companies of A, B, and C. But 
I later learned that their areas of operations were not Rome plowed 

open, and they were all digging in 
right into the jungle floor as it was. 
If we were in the shit, they were 
in worse shit. The line companies 
were scattered all around the 
Battalion CP, stretching over miles 
each way adjacent to both sides 
of the jungle road running 
through the Battalion. 

As a dreary, reddish dawn 
finally broke through the sky, 
rising over the top of the jungle canopy, we could now actually see 
the shit we were locked into. Then the next shocking awaking had 
everyone jumping around and hollowing madly. With the daylight 
now shining brightly, and the tropical sun blazing down on us, we 
could see that where the Rome plows tore into the previously, 
undisturbed floor of the jungle, and the places we were digging our 
foxholes, were swarming with thousands of large and small bugs of 
all sizes and descriptions that most of us had never seen. Holy fucking 
shit! There were fucking bugs crawling and flying around everywhere, 
as the previously pristine jungle had never been disturbed for eons. 
The bugs had been indentured into the ground, just like the rotting 
vegetation, since the dawn of time. 

These bugs were totally freaking everyone out, but the sergeants 
were screaming at us to ignore them and work around them. The 
platoon sergeant told us, "It is better to have bugs to fight off than 
fully-armed enemies firing weapons at us, trying to over run our 




198 Bud Monaco 



positions and kill us." It was a real nightmare. Thankfully, after the 
foxholes were dug, most of the bugs seemed to retreat back into the 
tree line, and were not as numerous as they were at first, but there 
was still plenty to go around. 

There were many flying insects, thousands, still buzzing and 
swarming around in the air. Most of them were mosquitoes that were 
as large as small hummingbirds. The mosquitoes would terrorize 
everyone for the next twenty-four hours. We were all issued 
mosquito repellent, but it was mosdy useless, and the mosquitoes 
seemed to thrive on it. It was lovely. Just lovely. 

Every soldier had previously been inoculated to prevent getting 
malaria which ran rampant in the jungle, being transferred to 
soldiers from attacking and biting swarms of infected mosquitoes. 
The one thing that did keep the mosquitoes off of a soldier, which 
was told to us by our platoon sergeant, was mud. It really sucked 
having to wipe the stinking jungle mud on your face, hands, and 
neck, but it sure did the trick keeping the mosquitoes from biting the 
living shit out you. Even this did not stop all the mosquitoes totally 
from continuing to bite and sting. Oh baby, it was going to be a long 
hard time out here in the jungle for the duration of that Battalion 
Operation Combat Alert. 

Once we had a defensive perimeter set up, a deuce and a half 
truck pulled in. One man from each foxhole was detailed over to the 
truck to unload it. And, of course, the FNG cherries were the first 
ones picked for that detail, which included me. In the truck was a 
twenty by twenty foot wide, ten foot high, OD green, canvass tent, 
with a dozen twelve foot long, three inches in diameter wooden tent 
poles. We had to erect the tent so the battalion CO and his officer 
staff would have a secure and dry environment to work out of We 
were standing in asshole deep mud foxholes with bugs as big as small 
rodents crawling over us and up our asses, but the Brass was going to 
be in a goddamned cozy and dry tent. BOHICA at its finest. 

It was a real bitch hauling the tent out of the truck. It was of 
enormous size and weight. It took all twelve of us to wrestle it out of 
the truck. Then we had to spread it out over the ground, crawl 
underneath it, secure the tent poles to the proper attachment places, 
and with everyone pulling and tugging, bring it up to its erected 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 199 



position. The tent poles were then secured deep into the ground. The 
support ropes were attached to every side of the tent, and secured 
into the ground with large tent stakes pounded down with 
our entrenching tools. 

Then another deuce and a half truck pulled up, and it was loaded 
to the top of the canopied bed of the truck with command post 
equipment that we had to unload and move into the tent. There were 
tables, chairs, radio equipment, operation boards with maps attached, 
wooded easels to hold the boards and maps, sections of eight by ten 
plywood flooring boards, and a host of other miscellaneous 
equipment in footlockers and cases. Geeezzzusss, where did all that 
shit come from, and where were the guys who loaded it, and why 
weren't they here to unload it? Fuck us. 

Then, in shocking surprise, the last thing we removed from the 
truck was a brand new. Army folding bunk, with a mattress, sheets, 
pillow, and the ubiquitous brown Army blanket, that would be the 
battalion CO lieutenant colonel's bed, so if he got tired he would 
have a clean place to sleep. 

The FNGs couldn't believe it. Here we were, covered in mud, 
dug into foxholes, and the CO would have clean sheets to sleep on. 
Well rank surely had its privilege. That was goddamned readily 
evident for all to see. In the long run, the CO never even used the 
bunk once during the whole time we were out in the jungle. Go 
figure. So we all just gutted it out, soldiered on, and went back to our 
foxholes, waiting for the next assignment. 

By that time it was mid-morning, and nobody had anything to 
eat yet since dinner mess call the evening before. First call had been 
many hours ago. Being so busy with barreling ass out of the barracks 
at 3:00 a.m., loading up, heading out, and setting up the base camp, 
no one actually had time to think about being hungry. And low and 
behold, the Army facilitated its age-old adage, 'An Army travels on 
its stomach," and we then heard the engines of the deuce and a half 
trucks approaching. Those trucks were loaded with the company cooks 
and aluminum thermal cases filled with hot food. 

The cooks quickly set up a serving chow line on tables they 
removed from the trucks, opened the tops of the food cases, and were 
ready to serve some much needed food to the troops in a few minutes 



200 Bud Monaco 



time. By the numbers, by the book, small sections of soldiers were 
giving the order to break out our mess kits and pass through the chow 
line. The troops were instructed to keep spread out from each other 
by ten feet. This was in case a sniper took out a soldier. With the 
proper response of the rest of the soldiers in the chow line hitting the 
dirt and taking cover, a sniper could not get off a quick second kill 
shot. This was the same for incoming mortar, artillery, or rocket 
attacks. Everyone would not eat at once, as the perimeter had to be 
kept secure in case of an enemy attack. The lifers took these 
operations totally seriously, as if we were in actual combat, leaving 
no stone unturned, keeping the base camp and the perimeter secure 
at all times. One thing for sure, the ubiquitous Army Book or Manual 
sure had every contingency covered. But whether or not every 
soldier followed the Book, well now that was a whole 'nother story. 

At the same time, another deuce and a half truck pulled up with 
a Water Buffalo trailer hooked up behind it. This Water Buffalo trailer 
was a large tank filled with clean, drinkable water, called potable 
water in Army lingo, and we could only drink or use the water that 
came out of the tank to prevent sickness or diseases from infecting 
the troops. The tank was left in a position near the CP. Only at 
designated times, could a soldier fill his canteen or fill his helmet 
with water to wash, shave or clean his mess kit. No exceptions. The 
water was strictly rationed out so everyone got an equal share. 

Even with the food jammed into the thermal cases like dog food, 
it still tasted wonderful. We quickly loaded up our mess kits with 
eggs, hash browns, toast, coffee, and juice. We wolfed down our food 
like rabid, hungry dogs, and returned to our foxholes, as the next 
group of soldiers took to the chow line. All the lower-ranking 
enlisted men were allowed to eat first, and the NCOs followed, with 
the officers being the last to eat. At least there was some respect for 
the lower-ranking troops doing all the real scut work, as the NCOs 
and officers made sure we ate first before they did. That was pretty 
nice of them, but in a Combat Alert, training, or actual combat, this 
was the Army way. Not bad. 

The mess call was quickly over within forty-five minutes. After 
feeding hundreds of troops, the cooks loaded their gear back into the 
trucks and were out of there. But before they left, one of the other 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 201 

cook trucks was unloaded of its cargo. The load contained hundreds 
of boxes of C-Rations that were neatly stacked up next to the CP 
tent, of course, by a detail of FNG cherries, again including me, and 
had a guard posted to watch over them so no one could pick through 
the boxes for the better choices, or allocate more rations than 
prescribed by Army regulations. 

Those boxes of C-Rations would be our next meals when the 
next chow calls were allowed. We had seen the last of any hot meals 
for the rest of our time in the field. The FNGs cherries learned fast, 
that eating C-Rats out of a can wasn't pretty at all, but the C-Rats 
would keep you fed, healthy, and ready for combat or training either 
way. You just had to suck it up and Hve with it the best you could. 
There was no second choice. This was The Army. 

Generally speaking, but not always the case, C-Rations 
consisted of the Breakfast Unit: canned entree of chopped ham and 
eggs, veal loaf, biscuits, a dried fruit bar or cereal bar, Halazone water 
purification tablets, a four-pack of cigarettes, chewing gum, 
instant coffee, and sugar. 

The Lunch Unit contained: canned entree of processed cheese, 
ham, or ham and cheese, biscuits, sugar, salt packets, a four-pack of 
cigarettes, a box of matches, chewing gum, a powdered beverage 
packet of lemon, orange, or grape flavor, and a can of processed fruit 
containing sliced pears or peaches in its fruit juice. The peaches were 
the most favored to eat and could be used in trade for just about 
anything a soldier would need. 

The Supper Unit contained: canned meat, consisting of either 
chicken pate, pork luncheon meat with carrot and apple, or beef and 
pork loaf, or sausages, or beans and frankfurters, long known in Army 
lingo as beans and motherfuckers, biscuits, a two-ounce C-Ration 
chocolate bar, tropical bar, or in temperate climates, a commercial 
sweet chocolate bar, a packet of toilet paper tissues, a four-pack of 
cigarettes, also a highly tradable commodity, chewing gum, and a 
bouillon soup cube or powder packet. 

As far as anyone would ever really know, those foods were what 
they said they were, and what was written on the boxes was actually 
in the individual cans of C-Rations. But looking at it all in the cans, 
after opening them with our standard Army issued P-38 can opener. 



202 Bud Monaco 



it looked nothing like what it said it was supposed to be. Not even close. 

Up to that time, we had not even unloaded our 4.2" mortars 
from our vehicles. I had completely forgotten about them, with all 
the digging, tent erecting, and truck unloading, but that changed real 
quickly. After a few minutes of respite for chow, the smoking lamp 
was lit for the first time since we left Fort Kobbe. Many of us had 
briefly snuck some smoking in out of sight of the NCOs and officers. 
The next phase of the mortar platoon was put into operation. 

One man each from the perimeter foxholes of the mortar 
platoon was directed to start to unload the guns and equipment from 
the trucks, which had been parked near by some yards away from the 
CP on the inside of the perimeter behind the foxhole line. We then 
started to prepare the four mortar pits for the gun emplacements, 
which required us to again start busting our asses further by digging 
into the ground with our entrenching tools, making the ground 
somewhat level. And, you know, of course, the FNGs cherries were 
detailed first to do that kick ass scut work. Oh yeah, / was one of 
them as usual. Damn. BOHICA strikes again. 

After the four mortar pits were prepared, taking only an hour or 
so with about ten yards between them, the diggers and the troops 
who had unloaded the guns from the truck were replaced with their 
other partners from their foxholes. The soldiers then dug out the 
ground for the base plate to be placed in, and reassembled the guns 
into firing order, ready to bring down holy hell and death from above 
on any enemy troops stupid enough to try to engage the Battalion in 
combat. Everything was coordinated and instructed by SSGT 
Packardie by the book. That Army lifer really knew his stuff inside 
and out in the field or in garrison. He knew how to get things done, 
and always took good care of the troops under his command. 

We learned that SSGT Packardie would soon be leaving Fort 
Kobbe. He had requested to go back to Vietnam for another tour of 
combat duty. Things would never be the same in the 4.2" mortar 
platoon once he was gone. He would be missed by all of us. 

With the Battalion CP perimeter now dug in and operating in 
full Combat Alert, loaded to the gills, asshole to elbows with a mean, 
angry bunch of heavily armed riflemen toting M-16 automatic rifles 
and Colt semi-automatic 1911 -A .45 caliber pistols, four M-60 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 203 



caliber machine gun emplacements, a 'Ma Duce,' M-2 .50 caliber 
machine gun emplacement, with four, 4.2" heavy mortar gun tubes 
at the ready, the recon platoon near-by in the far tree line with its 
four, devastatingly deadly at close range, . 106 caliber recoilless rifle 
guns, and every swinging dick soldier on \mt pissed off, beat to shit, 
dead tired, just looking to shoot and kill the fuck out of someone in 
the raging state of mind they were all in, especially an enemy trying 
to kill them. It would surely be a real bad move for any enemy to be 
on the receiving end of that much rage and firepower. 

And, that was just the firepower standing ready on the ground 
from the battalion base camp perimeter, with the other three infantry 
line companies surrounding the area, and didn't include the 
available 5 1 7th Field Artillery unleashing their .75 mm and . 1 05 mm 
Howitzers from a nearby location, nor did it include the air support 
firepower from the Air Force stationed at Howard Air Force Base, 
readily available in minutes to be on station, that could light up 
a jungle teeming with the enemy with .20 mm cannon fire, cluster 
bombs, five hundred pound high explosive bombs or Sparrow 
missiles, rapidly unleashed from F-4 Phantom Fast Mover jets, 
A-6 Intruder jets, A-1 Skyraiders, and a host of other fighter and 
bomber aircraft. There were also the C-130s, and AC-47 gunships 
with Puff The Magic Dragon aboard, which could be called quickly 
on-station, ripping the shit out of the jungle with their mini-guns 
blazing, as well as the dozens of Army UH-IB Huey Helicopter 
gunships, and AH-IG Huey Helicopter Cobra gunships stationed 
minutes away at Albrook Air Force Base, bringing immense and 
devastating fire power from above with rockets, cannon fire, and twin 
.60 caliber machine guns mounted on both sides, with door gunners 
just looking to tear into an enemy's sorry ass with extreme prejudice. 

Overall, there was a tremendous feeling of power, knowing what 
havoc and killing could be wreaked in an instant at the first shot of 
a gun, or the slightest sense of danger or attack. It was actually pretty 
cool being part of that tremendous fire-power and weaponry. Good 
thing we didn't have any live ammunition. I'd have to bet that was by 
design by the Brass for sure. 

We did learn after the alert was over that there were ammo 
support trucks loaded to the gills with live ammo secreted minutes 



204 Bud Monaco 



away nearby if actually needed. That was done at any time there was 
an alert that turned out to be the real thing, and the commanders 
wanted the live ammo on-hand, and quickly at that. 

But on the other hand, it was still fucked-up out there in the 
jungle, sweating balls of fire in the blazing tropical sun, stinking of 
rotting jungle mud slapped all over the exposed parts of our bodies, 
and combat boots, socks, and skin soaked wet to the bone, and tired 
as hell after twelve hours since first call. We were still being bitten to 
death by the continuing swarms of mosquitoes, and still having the 
rest of the day and night, and who knew how much longer, with many 
hours of unknown misery ahead. We didn't know or have the 
slightest clue what the next brilliant combat operation the Brass was 
planning for us to execute, while they were comfortably shacked up 
in their dry and clean CP tent, looking over their pretty colored maps, 
sipping on their iced-down beverages, and looking to drive herd 
over us to complete the mission at hand. 

Hello soldier. Welcome to just another day in the Army, and 
welcome to the shitl We were definitely in the shit, as it was known 
to be called in Combat Alert status, or what we were told would be 
the same kind of shit in actual combat, except there would actually 
be motherfuckers out there in the jungle shooting at you and trying 
to kill you. Not very much fun at all, nor was it meant to be. All you 
could do was dig the heels of your combat boots into the mud, 
gut it out, and soldier on. 

We also learned after the alert, days later, that the alert was 
a complete 193rd Infantry Brigade Operation and included the other 
two Battalions of the 4th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment from 
Fort Clayton, and the 4th Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment from 
Fort Davis. There was also additional support from the Marine 
Regiment stationed at Rodman Naval Station. The Marines areas of 
operations were to secure the Panama Canal itself at strategic 
locations covering the Canal from the Pacific side to the Atlantic 
side. There was also a contingent of Army soldiers from the Army 
Headquarters at Fort Amador, who took up strategic locations to 
protect and defend the approaches of The Bridge Of The Americas, 
making sure nothing untoward would happen to the life-line of 
Central America. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 205 



We should have figured out that it was a full, 193rd Infantry 
Brigade Alert, because around mid-afternoon, we heard a chopper 
overhead, and there must have been a landing zone (LZ) nearby. 
Within minutes after hearing the chopper, the Brass in the CP came 
busting out of the tent shouting orders at the NCOs, and had them all 
assemble outside the CP tent. After the briefing, the NCOs started 
barking out orders to everyone to continue to improve our fighting 
positions, and our platoon sergeant detailed eight mortar platoon 
soldiers to start re-cleaning the guns, tightening up the mortar pits, 
and for everyone to be doing their jobs at hand. He made sure 
everyone had their steel pots on their heads with the chin straps 
fastened, and their weapons strapped on, slung across their 
bodies, readily at hand. 

Soon after, a couple of command jeeps pulled into the Battalion 
CP area, and the CO Full Bird Colonel, and Sergeant Major of the 
193rd Infantry Brigade hopped out of the lead jeep, wearing 
perfectly pressed and starched fatigues, highly spit-shined combat 
boots, steel pots on their heads, with only a pistol belt around the 
CO's waist, carrying his personalized, chrome plated, pearl handled, 
191 1-A .45 caliber pistol, with his staff following closely on his six, 
looking like they were ready to kick ass and take names. 

On his six meant, to be right on his ass. There was not a speck 
of mud or dirt on any of them. The battalion CO lieutenant colonel, 
HHC CO captain, and IstSGT, met him outside the flap of the CP 
tent, sharply saluted him, and they went into the tent for a briefing. 
The briefing only lasted a few minutes, and with their staffs in tow, 
right on their sixes, streamed out of the CP tent, and started doing 
a walk around inspection of the battalion CP and perimeter. 

At each platoon position, the platoon sergeants reported to both 
the COs and the sergeant major, but without saluting. Generally, 
enlisted men did not salute officers while out in the field to prevent 
an enemy sniper from knowing who the officers were, and blowing 
them away to disrupt the chain of command. 

Somewhat quickly, both the COs and their staffs walked around 
the whole perimeter, briefly stopping at some of the locafions and 
giving words of encouragement to some of the troops. They told them 
they were doing a fine job, to keep up the good work, and that the 



206 Bud Monaco 



Army was proud of them. Nice. Not too shabby. Definitely not as 
shabby as all the troops looked, covered from head to toe with 
sweat, dirt, and mud. 

When they finished walking the CP and perimeter, and after a 
few more words with the battalion CO, the brigade CO and his staff 
hopped back into their jeeps, and were on their way to check out 
the line Companies of A, B, and C. That was the end of that. 
Interesting to see for sure. 

Our 3rd Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment was strategically 
located on the south-western Pacific side of the Canal, with the 4th 
Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment located on the north-central side 
of the Canal, and the 4th Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment 
strategically located on the north-eastern Atlantic side of the Canal. 
All the bases were covered, and if all the units were to engage an 
enemy force, they would all respond in a previously prescribed order 
of battle, kick royal ass from one end of the Canal Zone to the other, 
and everywhere in between. It was quite a formidable combat force 
that was not to be trifled with. An enemy would get its ass kicked 
from land, sea or air in no time at all. Surely every bit the Ready 
Reaction Combat Force the American military presence was named for. 

And another thing: as bad as it all was out there in the shit, it 
was made worse having to listen to the old fimers and short timers 
bitch, cry, and moan all fucking day long, acting like a bunch of 
Section Eights. A Section Eight was the Army term for a crazy fuck, 
and if a soldier was pronounced a Section Eight by an Army 
psychiatrist, it would mean a Bad Conduct Discharge (BCD), in Army 
jargon called the big chicken dinner, and he would be fucked for the 
rest of his life. What a bunch of crybaby motherfuckers some of those 
guys were. You'd think they would just shut the fuck up by now 
having been through that shit before. But no, many of them 
condnued, relentlessly pissing off everyone else who had to hear them, 
wail like little babies for hours on end with every order that 
was given by the NCOs. 

I, myself, got real tired of that constant moaning shit, stepped 
up, told a couple of them to, ''Shut the fuck up, and get on with the 
job at hand." It didn't go over real well with some of them, and they 
told me to, "Shut your fucking cherry ass mouth up." I stood up to 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 207 



them and still told them to, ''Fuck ojfr And as if I was back in my 
grammar school playground back on the block, I said like a little kid, 
''Make me, you pricks." That got a big laugh out of some of the other 
guys, and I'm pretty sure none of the loud mouths at the time were 
too eager to test my veracity. Like I said, "Fuck them," I was nobody 
to mess with either way, and they didn't know that one way or the 
other. I gave no shit and took no shit. I was not in the shit business. 
But there sure was a lot of shit going on all around us all the time. 

All their bitching wasnt going to change a thing. You got an 
order, you followed the order. No exceptions. Nothing new. They 
could bitch to the high heavens, and they would still be in the shit. 
Fuck them. It was just another part of Army life you had to learn to 
live with, but I wasn't going to put up with it without saying 
something about it. I was no bad-ass, standing only five foot seven at 
a hundred and nineteen pounds, but I was no candy ass either. Like 
I said, "Fuck them," and I told them so with no regrets. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 209 



Chapter 34 

The Real Meaning Of Shit Storm 

''Personal Hygiene Is One Thing. 

Slit Trenches Are A Whole 'Mother Ball Game. 

Personal Hygiene Will Never Be The Same.'' 

The personal hygiene of the troops had another shitty thing that 
had to be attended to at a CP, and that was digging latrines. 
A latrine slit trench had to be dug, and you can bet who would get the 
job of digging the trench just outside the CP perimeter. Yeah, right, 
the FNG cherries, and of course that included me. So under the 
expert latrine digging guidance of one of the squad leaders, three of 
us chosen few, hacked away some jungle with our machetes, and dug 
a ten foot long, three foot deep, and two foot wide slit trench. 

If any of the bugs that had retreated back into the jungle were 
no longer in great numbers crawling over us, they were now 
disturbed once more, attacking us again in full force. The rotting 
vegetation smell that we had encountered earlier that morning, which 
had dissipated somewhat, was now permeating the air again, 
gagging the three of us. Wonderful. Just wonderful. 

Every soldier had to use the latrine slit trench. Anyone caught 
pissing or shitting anywhere else would be severely reprimanded. 
Didn't seem like a major issue to the unknowing troops, but if 
everyone was pissing and shitting all over the place, then anytime a 
soldier would set something down or have to hit the dirt for any 
reason, they would wind up laying down in someone's piss or shit. 
Not a pretty sight. The slit trench kept the shit contained in one or 
two specific places, and no one had to wear shit on their fatigues, or 
eat shit, other than the shitty jungle mud that we all were caked with. 

Using a slit trench for a latrine was quite an experience. Pissing 
was not a problem. You just stood next to the trench and let it flow. 
But taking a shit was a whole 'nother ball game. A soldier would 
first have to remove his web gear, set his weapon down close at hand, 
if not handing it to another soldier to hold as was necessary in real 
combat, pull his fatigue pants down to his knees far enough so he 
didn't shit in his own pants, but not so far down as his pants would 
dip into the shit already in the trench. 



210 Bud Monaco 



Straddling the trench, you would take your shit with the 
previous shits smell wafting up into your nose. Then there was the 
process of wiping your ass clean with these little, small pieces of 
toilet paper, that were wrapped up in a package smaller than a 
cigarette pack, not very comfortable to handle, while straddling the 
trench with your pants around your knees, trying to keep your 
balance so you didn't fall into the shit. Then making sure you didn't 
shit in the bottom of your fatigue pants, un-straddle the trench 
making sure not to lose your balance and step in the shit, which was 
at least ankle to mid-calf high, and hopefully, everything 
came out all right. 

If you ever wondered what it was like to take a shit over a slit 
trench, well, you don 7 want to know, or ever have to use a slit trench. 
Do not try it at home in your backyard. It ain't that pretty at all. 

At the end of an operation, of course, what else, the FNG 
cherries chosen for that shit detail, would have to go back to the slit 
trench and cover all the shit up with the dirt that was previously dug 
out to make the trench. Lovely. Talk about a real shit detail, 
that was the tops. 

After the Brigade CO had left the CP, the platoon sergeants 
started putting together patrols to head out into the jungle and patrol 
the outside of the perimeter. I guess the brigade CO had instructed 
the battalion CO to do that. If it was an actual alert or combat it 
would have to be done anyway. The platoon sergeant then passed the 
word down to the squad leaders to detail six man patrols. 

The FNG cherries got the first patrol, and with a squad leader 
headed outside the CP perimeter and into the jungle to patrol around. 
I was in the first patrol, and we started chopping our way into the 
jungle to make a path that we could walk through, with the point 
man doing the major machete hacking. Each following soldier 
would hack a little bit more of the jungle away as one soldier 
followed another into the jungle. 

The jungle did not give up easily. It fought back at us as if it 
were a living entity. It being my first real encounter out in the jungle, 
I found the jungle to be sinister, with a hideous malevolent presence. 
Branches swatted back into the faces and bodies of the soldiers as 
they hacked away at them. Undergrowth vines grabbed at your feet 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 211 

and legs, and the relentless attack of bugs and humidity put a whole 
can of whoop-ass on each and every soldier who dared to test 
the veracity of the jungle. 

Every twenty yards or so, the squad leader would have us halt, 
sending two soldiers out to the left and right side, checking out and 
protecting the flanks of the patrol. After we moved about a hundred 
yards north, we then turned east another hundred yards, and then 
back south, until we arrived back at the CP perimeter. It was some 
major ass-busting-humping. We were sweating so much in the 
humidity of the inner jungle, that the mud we had spread over our 
hands, necks and faces had seeped down deep into our fatigues, 
literally washing it off of our exposed skin. It only took a Uttle while 
for that to happen, and with that, the mosquitoes were in full attack 
mode, and biting the living fuck out of us. I never thought the sight 
of the perimeter could look so good as we made our way out of the 
jungle after two hours' time on the patrol. The patrolling would 
continue for the rest of the day, that night, and into the following 
morning. Fortunately, there were enough soldiers in the Battalion 
CP area that none of us had to do a second patrol. 

One thing I noticed was we had not encountered any animals. 
No ground animals, no monkeys, nothing but the two-legged 
animals that were the soldiers. There were a lot of birds flying around 
and making noise when dawn broke that morning, but they all had 
taken flight and got the hell out of Dodge once we took over the area. 
I asked one of the sergeants about the lack of animals. He explained 
that we weren't that deep into the jungle, and there was too much 
human traffic throughout the area from indigenous Panamanians, and 
American military ground forces and aircraft that scared the animals 
deeper into the jungle areas further from humankind. I guess the 
animals knew best to get the fuck out of the way, because we would 
bring nothing but bad things upon them. 

During the time soldiers were on patrol, the other soldiers 
guarding the CP perimeter continued to improve their foxhole 
fighting positions by building up better birms in front of the 
foxholes, using C-Ration cardboard boxes to place on the bottom of 
the foxholes to soak up excess water or mud, and hacking away more 
jungle in front of the fighting positions with machetes to extend the 



212 Bud Monaco 



fields of fire. This continued for the duration of the Combat Alert, 
and kept busting our balls hour after hour. 

When our first patrol arrived back at the CP, we were allowed to 
take a break, have our dinner C-Rations, clean up a bit, take a shit, 
have a smoke, continue to improve our foxholes, clean our weapons 
again, and wait for the next orders to come down the chain of command. 

Then, the night came down over the jungle. After we had all 
taken turns eating our dinner C-Rations, we settled into our foxholes 
for the duration of the night time hours. Seeing the sunlight slowly 
fade away, turning to a murky, brown-hued, twilight dusk, the total 
darkness of night overtook the CP, engulfing us in the jungle blackness. 

Where we were previously able to see clearly all over the CP, 
now we couldn't see our hands in front of our faces, and could not 
see into the foreboding jungle expanse. An overall quiet came over 
the CP, with only a few muffled voices to be heard, a few traces of 
light coming out of the CP tent, and from the quick, barely visible, 
snippets of flashlights, turned on and off without haste. It was an 
eerie and discontenting orientation that took some getting used to, 
but once your eyes got accustomed to the dark, and your night vision 
adjusted, you could start to see more of the surrounding 
CP and jungle tree Hne. 

The smoking lamp was totally not lit. The only way you could 
sneak a smoke was to be completely covered under your poncho to 
light your smoke, and only smoke it while under the poncho, so the 
light from a match and the amber glow of the lit cigarette did not 
escape. In that kind of darkness you could see the amber glow of a lit 
cigarette a mile away. An enemy sniper could see the glow through a 
night vision scope and blow a soldier away in a heartbeat. The 
enemy could also figure out and see from the faintest light to where 
the perimeter was set up for attacking the CP with infantry, or 
sneaking between the fighting positions with sappers that could 
unleash explosive satchel charges of TNT, causing great damage and 
casualties. It was a real bitch under the poncho, as the heat and 
humidity did not relent at all, even with the sun going down. But we 
all suffered, sweating our asses off under the ponchos, just to 
be able to sneak a smoke. 

The sounds of the jungle increased exponentially as the night 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 213 



wore on. The sounds of millions of bugs and flying insects, some 
birds, and probably a few small rodents scurrying across the floor of 
the jungle, created a continuing, cacophonous droning, that rose and 
fell with symbolic bedlam. The battalion may have taken over a 
relatively small section of the jungle expanse, but the jungle belonged 
to the bugs. It was their jungle and we were just visiting. With their 
unrelenting chirps, cackles and buzzing, the life forms of the jungle 
made sure that we knew exactly who the jungle belonged to. 

During the night, after a prescribed time, one man from each 
two-man foxhole was allowed to sleep, while the other man stood 
guard, weapon at the ready, eyes forward at all times. The password 
and counter password was given to us by a squad leader, and he told 
us, without doubt, that he and the platoon sergeant, the IstSGT, or an 
officer, would be making continuous rounds throughout the night, 
checking the perimeter, making sure there was only one man 
sleeping and one man wide awake, standing his position in our 
foxholes. Any fighting position that was found to have the on-guard 
soldier sleeping, his ass would be in a sling. So everyone had their 
asses wired, did exactly what they were ordered to do, and made sure 
to remember the password and the counter password. Not knowing 
the password or the counter, a soldier would be in an ass-slinging 
situation very quickly. 

Sometime during the dead of night, a squad leader came around 
to the Mortar Platoon's foxholes, and on his approach the standing 
guard would quietly, in a low voice say, "Halt, who goes there?" The 
SGT would say who he was and the password and counter would be 
exchanged. The guard would say, 'Advance and be recognized." The 
SGT then woke up the sleeping soldiers from a half-dozen foxholes, 
if in fact a soldier was actually able to sleep at all, and ordered one 
man from each foxhole to report to the mortar pits. We were going to 
execute a simulated, 4.2" mortar firing mission with two of the big guns. 

As the six of us found our way in the dark to the mortar pits, the 
platoon sergeant was already there and directed us to our positions at 
the guns without haste. The fire direction control soldier 
was standing there with a map chart, looking it over with a 
light-diminishing, red lens filter cap on his flashlight, and another 
soldier went out about fifteen yards into the previously hacked away 



214 Bud Monaco 



jungle, where he placed a sighting pole. With the same type of lens 
filtered flashlight, he lit up a section of the sighting pole so that the 
gun sight operator could line up the gun sight onto the sighting pole. 

A runner from the battalion CP came over giving the platoon 
sergeant the coordinates for the fire mission, and he relayed this 
information to the gun sight operator. With a few adjustments to the 
gun tri-pod, we were ready to go. The platoon sergeant gave the 
order to, "Prepare to fire," and the six men assigned to the two guns 
simulated their jobs. The platoon sergeant then gave the order to, 
"Hang one round," and then gave the order to, "Fire for effect." We 
proceeded to simulate the fire mission as if the ammo bearers were 
handing off rounds to the gunner, with the gunner simulating 
dropping the rounds into the gun tubes. Within a few minutes the 
SGT gave the order to, "Cease fire," and the fire mission was over. 

In the darkness, and being focused with the job at hand, none of 
us had noticed that standing right behind us the whole time was the 
battalion CO, the HHC CO, the battalion SGTMAJ, and the HHC 
IstSGT. Sure glad we didn't know they were there during the fire 
mission. It was now pretty unnerving with the fire mission over, and 
all the Brass and Top Dog Sergeants watching our every move. They 
wanted to witness first hand that the mortar platoon could pull off a 
night firing mission without a hitch if it became necessary to do so. 
But we did well, and the simulated fire mission was a success. All 
the proper procedures were done correctly. 

The COs and sergeants took a moment to tell the platoon 
sergeant, the squad leaders, and us, that we had done a good job, and 
to keep up the good work. Then, they silently walked away into the 
darkness. The platoon sergeant instructed us to secure the gun sights, 
go back to our foxholes, and be prepared for any further orders. 

The rest of the night passed without further incident except for 
the squad leaders confinuing to check on each foxhole making sure 
one man was fully awake, and standing his post. The mosquitoes 
continued their relentless attacks. 

At one time during the night, my foxhole was approached by an 
officer with a sergeant behind him, and after the password and counter 
was exchanged, the officer and the sergeant that came forward turned 
out to be the battalion lieutenant colonel CO and the battalion 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 215 



sergeant major. Damn, didn't those guys ever take a break? It was a 
little scary seeing those two head honchos in the dead of night 
creeping around the perimeter, but they didn't stay long, and 
stealthily moved on to the next foxhole. Those guys were the real 
deal lifer soldiers, surely were no prima donnas, staying awake with 
the rest of the troops all night long and on the move continuously. It 
was moves like that that garnered the respect of the soldiers, 
knowing that the bosses were out in the shit, sweating bullets and 
getting the fuck bit out of them by the mosquitoes just like 
the grunts in the foxholes. 

Night eventually turned into a grayish, pre-dawn haze of light, 
and the whole CP, perimeter, and jungle was shrouded with a misty, 
demonic-looking fog that rose and settled with a barely flowing breeze. 
As demonic-looking as it was, it also had a quiet beauty about it. 
The fog quickly burned off as the blazing tropical sun rose up 
over the top of the jungle. 

The squad leaders came around to each foxhole, designating 
one man from each hole to be allowed to go to the Water Buffalo, fill 
up his canteen and steel pot helmet with water, proceed back to his 

foxhole to wash up, brush his teeth, 
and do a clean shave. Then after ev- 
eryone was done with that routine, 
we were instructed to go over to the 
CP tent area where we were issued 
our boxes of breakfast C-Rations, 
again, one man from each 
foxhole at a time. 

During my trip over to the 
Water Buffalo, with a couple of 
other soldiers, we came across a 
gigantic tarantula spider in our path. I shit you not; this 
brownish-colored tarantula was four inches in size with a leg span of 
near ten inches across the size of a dinner plate. It had eight legs 
covered in soft furry-like spikes, which also covered its body, and 
weighed at least two ounces. It was huge and scared the shit out of 
us. We all froze in our tracks. We had been told that a tarantula could 
jump a few feet into the air when surprised to attack a predator. 




216 Bud Monaco 



humans included. None of us wanted this goddamned tarantula 
jumping on any of our asses. 

It was moving very slowly across the ground, and didn't seem 
bothered by us. The platoon sergeant was walking with us at the 
time, and he instructed me to take my steel pot helmet, crouch down 
and smash it onto the tarantula to kill it. I said, "Fuck that. What if it 
jumps on me when I bend over to do this?" Damn, I didn't want any 
part of that big, hairy spider jumping on me, sinking his fangs and 
venom into my bare head, neck or hands. He said, "Just do it, you 
fucking cream puff curtain climber. You'll be alright," as he and the 
other soldiers standing by were laughing their asses off. So, I slowly 
approached the tarantula, and once I was close enough standing over 
it, I smashed my steel pot onto the spider. 

Nothing happened. My steel pot didn't even dent or crush the 
spider with the light force I was using, and I was holding it down like 
my life depended on it, so the spider couldn't get loose, as by now it 
had to be real pissed off, looking to jump on my skinny ass and send 
me over to the medics for treatment. I then quickly pulled my steel 
pot off of the spider and jumped back a yard or two, with the hair on 
my head and neck standing on edge. The platoon sergeant then took 
my steel pot out of my hands, while the spider was not moving now, 
he said, "Let me show you how to do this, cherry," and quickly, with 
one fast movement, he really smashed the steel pot very hard with 
both hands, down onto the spider. He continued to jam the helmet 
down onto the spider, twisting the helmet back and forth to really 
crush the life out of the tarantula. The big hairy legs of the spider 
were sticking out from the sides of the helmet and slowly stopped 
moving. When he pulled the steel pot off of the spider, it was now 
crushed and dead. Good riddance, but now my helmet was 
covered with spider guts and fluids that had a gagging smell to go 
along with it. Swell. Just swell. 

We continued on to the Water Buffalo, I washed the spider guts 
off my helmet, filled my canteen and helmet with clean water, and 
headed back to my foxhole. From then on I would always think about 
those spider guts stuck to the crown of my steel pot every time I put 
it on. Lovely. Just lovely. 

After the morning routine we were told that the Alert would be 
over shortly, and we would be packing up to head back to Fort Kobbe. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 217 



But before any moving back anywhere was to take place, there were 
a lot of shit details to be done. First on the agenda was a detail to 
remove the equipment from the CP tent, take down the tent and load 
it into a waiting deuce and a half truck. Everyone took their morning 
shit and piss, as no one ventured out to the latrine slit trench during 
the night. Who knew what could crawl up your ass while taking a 
shit in a slit trench at night? A detail of FNG cherries was chosen to 
go back to the slit trenches, and cover up the shit and piss with the 
dirt that was removed in the first place. What a wonderful 
experience. Damn, just another day in the Army. 

The big guns were broken down and with all the equipment 
were loaded into the mortar platoon trucks, making sure we did not 
leave anything behind. We also had to knock down the dirt berms 
that we had built around the mortar pits with our entrenching tools. 
That was the hardest thing to do after all the sweat and ass-busting 
digging we had done. We had to put the dirt back into the foxholes 
and fill them up to the top. Damn, that was heartbreaking, thinking 
about all the labor we had put into digging the foxholes, and all the 
time we spent improving them over the past day and night. 

After all the packing up was done, we then had to do a police 
call on the CP area, pick up any garbage, cigarette butts, empty 
C-Ration cans, and anything else that was lying on the ground. The 
platoon sergeants made a final check of the CP and the perimeter, 
and we would be good to go as soon as the battalion CO gave the 
order. The order came about an hour later and we were told to, "Mount 
up and prepare for movement." Within a few minutes after that, when 
everyone was loaded into the trucks, the order to, "Move out," was 
given, and away we went, heading back to Fort Kobbe. 

Good goddamned riddance to the jungle, the digging, the mud, 
the latrine slit trenches, the C-Rations, and the Combat Alert for now. 
And if I thought the past two days were tough to soldier through, in 
the following month and in the upcoming spring, my next excursions 
into the jungle would make the past two days seem like a fucking 
cake walk and a walk in the sun without question. The following 
month I would be detailed to the Atlantic side, and become part of 
the Army's Jungle Operation Training Center (JOTC), also known as 
Jungle Warfare School or The School Of The Americas, operated 
and run by the 8th Special Forces Group, the Green Beret Regiment, 



218 Bud Monaco 



for two weeks of JOTC out in the jungle. In the spring, the 3rd 
Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment would be heading out into the 
Panama interior at a base camp called Rio Hato for three continuous 
months of combat field training. If I thought I knew what ass-busting 
Army training was all about, I was in for a real surprise that 
would knock my dick into the dirt. 

Arriving back at Fort Kobbe, there was no immediate reprieve 
from being in the field whatsoever. First, we had to turn our weapons 
back into the Armorer's vault, drop off our combat gear outside the 
Mortar bay, and unload all the big guns and equipment out of the 
trucks into the Mortar bay. Then we had to clean all four guns, oil 
them down properly, reassemble them, and clean all the equipment. 
Once that was done, everyone was sent to the Motor Pool with the 
mortar platoon trucks and jeeps. They had to be cleaned, washed, the 
oil changed in all the vehicles, and repair any minor vehicle damage 
that we were able to do without the mechanics. 

By the time we were done with all this, we headed back to the 
company area for a late lunch mess call, eating our first hot meal in 
two days. Then we had to go back in the barracks to clean all of our 
combat gear, sort out our dirty laundry, and do a quick sweeping and 
mopping of the barracks floors. Then, and only then, were we able to 
get out of our filthy fatigue cloths, take a hot shower, and take a shit 
in a toilet instead of a stinking slit trench. There were a lot of guys 
who couldn't bring themselves to using the slit trench out in the field 
unless absolutely necessary to avoid shitting in their fatigue pants. 
They held their shit in for two days. There was a real shit-storm 
going on in the barracks latrine for the next hour or so. It was not a 
pretty sight, and it took hours for the shit smell to dissipate. You'd 
think we all died and went to heaven, being able to do these simple 
things that we were deprived of for only two days. 

By now it was time for dinner mess call, and after we finished 
eating, sitting at tables in chairs, we had the rest of the night off until 
morning reveille. The evening passed quickly, and by the time we hit 
our racks, it was absolute heaven again to be able to sleep on a bunk 
with clean sheets and pillows, and not having thousands of bugs and 
mosquitoes crawling over us or biting the living shit out of us. Such 
trivial matters could be so blissful, and, absolutely wonderful. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 219 



Chapter 35 

Jungle Operations Training Center: JOTC 

''Welcome To The Jungle. 

Do You Have What It Takes? 

Learn To Live Like An Animal To Survive. 

Strong Men Live. 

A Weak Man Dies." 

With the Combat Alert now behind us and the BattaHon and 
HHC back to its normal routines, it was now the last week of 
November, 1969. The Monday following the Combat Alert, we all 
fell out for reveille, and before the morning run to the beach, the 
platoon sergeant started calling out names of a dozen mortar platoon 
soldiers and had them fall out of formation. When he called out the 
first six names of the FNG cherries, followed by the next six old 
timers, along with one of our squad leaders, us cherries didn't have a 
clue what was going on, but the old timers knew right then that it was 
going to be a detail they surely did not want to be part of. 01' Jonesy 
led the bitching with a rant of, "Oh goddamned geeezzzusss, Sarge. 
Why me? I'm getting short, and this is going to be a fucked detail. 
I just know it. You can fmd someone else. Don't make me do this." 
The other old timers vocally joined in, trying to con their way out 
of the detail to no avail. 

The platoon sergeant then told us we were to go to the mess hall 
for a quick breakfast. Then to get all of our combat gear and as many 
changes of fatigues, socks and underwear we had, along with our 
shaving gear, put it into our duffle bags, sign out our weapons from 
the Armorer's vault, and fall back out in formation within the hour. 
Only after we were back in formation, with all our gear and duffle 
bags, did he inform us what the detail was going to be. We would be 
picked up shortly by a deuce and a half truck and driven across the 
Isthmus to the Atlantic side of the Canal Zone. We would be detailed 
out as an aggressor force, working with the 8'^ Special Forces Group, 
the Green Berets, in the Jungle Operations Training Center (JOTC), 
for the next two weeks. This really rankled the old timers, and they 
extended their crying and moaning to a whole 'nother level, 
but still to no avail. 



220 Bud Monaco 




Myself, Louie, four other FNGs, along with six other old timers 
and one SGT, were soon picked up by a deuce and a half truck. We 
loaded up our gear, climbed into the bed of the truck, and we were 
off to spend the next two weeks deep in the triple canopy, 
uninhabited Darien Jungle. It would be a life altering experience 
never to be forgotten. 

It was my first trip crossing to the other side of the Canal Zone, 
traversing the Zone from the Pacific side to the Atlantic side. The 

Canal Zone was thirteen 
miles wide and seventy 
miles across from the 
Pacific side to the 
Atlantic side, separating 
the Republic of Panama 
in half, bordering Costa 
Rica on the north, and 
Columbia on the south. 
Our destination would be Fort Sherman, which was located on the 
second most northern point of the Canal Zone at Toro Point, with the 
Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean on the beach front. Fort 
Sherman was the Headquarters for JOTC, and was operated by the 
major league Special Operations combat soldiers, the Green Berets 
of the 8th Special Forces Group. 

The truck ride took us out of Fort Kobbe, across The Bridge Of 
The Americas, through Panama City, onto the Boyd-Roosevelt 
Highway, into the interior of Panama, through the villages of Santa 
Rita and Las Cumbres, and past Madden Dam. Further north, the 
highway turned back west into the Canal Zone towards the city of 
Colon, and then dropped back south. We crossed the Panama Canal 
at the Gatun Locks where the road turned back up north to Fort 
Sherman. It was quite the trip seeing the country from the back of 
the truck, as we passed through the wide expanses of jungle 
on both sides of the road. 

The Boyd-Roosevelt Highway was a far cry from being like 
any American Interstate highway. At some points in the road it was 
barely drivable. It was a narrow, pot-holed, two-lane, blacktop road 
with hardly a shoulder on either side, or any discernible center line 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 221 

or safety markers whatsoever. We bounced around in the bed of the 
truck like fucking bowling pins during the three hour trip. 
It was an ass-busting ride but we made the most of it. 
There was no second choice. 

Some of the small villages we passed through were nothing more 
than shanty town shacks with thatched walls and roofs. Most of the 
inhabitants were half-dressed, barefooted, indigent people living off 
the land. It seemed like being transported back into the Stone Age 
where modern technology had not yet arrived. It was very sad 
knowing that the modern technology of humankind and Western 
civilization was only minutes away in the bustling capitol of Panama 
City or the city of Colon. Yet those people were still living in abject 
squalor and poverty in the twentieth century. Sad, but unfortunately 
true, for these indigenous people. Real sad. 

The crossing location at the Gatun Locks was very interesting. 
It was the only place to cross the Canal on the Atlantic side, and the 
small, concrete and steel-grated, single-lane bridge, located at the 
low water level of the Canal flowing into the Atlantic Ocean, was 
actually connected to the Gatun Lock gates. It was the exit and 
entrance of the Canal to or from the Atlantic Ocean. The crossing 
could be made only when the lock gates were in the closed position, 
as the one-lane bridge was connected directly to the lock gates. As 
the truck crossed the bridge, the gigantic lock gates loomed twenty 
feet over the top of the truck canopy, and there was a huge cargo ship 
easily visible, floating there like a giant toy, sitting behind the closed 
lock gate. It was quite an imposing sight, and knowing that there 
were millions of gallons of water pressing up against the inside of 
the gate like a dam made it seem unreal. 

During the ride, the old timers told us what we were in for 
during this JOTC tour detail, as a couple of them had been detailed 
to JOTC before. It wasn't going to be pretty. With the truck canopy 
rolled back, we rode with the wind blowing over us, and the hot 
Panamanian sun shining brightly. I enjoyed the ride, but I surely would 
not enjoy the next, at the time scheduled, two weeks. The 
next two weeks would test every faculty of my mind, body and 
soul to the utmost extremes. 

Arriving at Fort Sherman, we dismounted from the truck in front 



222 Bud Monaco 



of the Headquarters building, fell into formation at attention, and 
were met by the Green Berets, 8^^ Special Forces Group 
Commanding Officer Full Bird Colonel and Sergeant Major that were 
in absolute charge of JOTC. They were the real deal U. S. Army 
soldiers. They were career lifers through and through. The Green 
Beret Cadre were all Vietnam combat veterans with numerous 
combat tours. They were stract-ass, tough, bad-ass motherfuckers, 
and they knew their shit about Jungle Warfare School at JOTC. They 
were strictly business and by the book, taking no shit from anyone. 
They expected nothing but the Army way, actually, the Special Forces 
way, at all times, and when they gave an order, you better goddamned 
follow it to the maximum, with no questions or any deliberations 
accepted. We would be run through the Army aggressor force mill, 
supporting JOTC, like we had never been run through any mill before. 

The CO proceeded to tell us what was expected of us, and what 
our jobs would be as an aggressor force, during the upcoming 
training of soldiers enrolled for the duration of this JOTC operation. 
As the aggressor force, we would take on the role of an enemy force, 
causing as much disruption, chaos, and combat attacks against the 
training soldiers, both day and night, continuously with no quarter given. 

We would be secluded in a JOTC base camp deep in the jungle, 
far removed from the JOTC trainees base camp, living in tents, 
sleeping on Army cots, eating only Army issued C-Rations, with 
limited hot food mess calls, having no running water or shower 
facilities for the duration of the operation. We would be on call 
twenty-four hours a day, ready to roll out in a moment's notice to 
answer the beckoned call of the Green Beret Cadre without 
hesitation. It was not going to be any walk in the sun. It was going to 
be nothing but horse shit and gun smoke with no place for prima donnas. 

When our duty was over at JOTC, it would finally make us FNGs 
real soldiers and men. Also when it was over, the next motherfucker 
to call me a Fucking New Guy Cherry would get a good solid 
kick right in the balls. No one would be a FNG anymore after 
surviving this JOTC assignment. 

The CO then gave us a brief history lesson of JOTC. Back in the 
early 1950's, the Army was given the mission 'to keep the art of 
jungle warfare alive in the Army.' Events across the globe 



DRAFTED: You've In The Army Now! 223 

demonstrated a need for proficiency in jungle operations. With 
America's interests and operating responsibilities as an emerging 
superpower with global focus, it was likely the United States would 
again be called on to wage war in a jungle environment. America's 
involvement, and soon to follow war in Vietnam, proved that 
statement and reasoning to be dead nuts on. 

The location of JOTC was bordered on the north by the 
Caribbean Sea, on the south and below by the Rio Chagres River, 
and on the east and south by Limon Bay and Gatun Lake. It 
consisted of twenty-three thousand acres of single, double, and pretty 
much impenetrable, triple canopy jungle, crisscrossed with steep, 
rolling hills, numerous tributaries, mangrove swamps, former banana 
plantations, and coastlines. The, mainly, uninhabited, Central 
American location was a very formidable and dangerous 
environment in which to train and survive. 

Amazingly, all the American military trainees. Army, Navy, 
Marines, and Air Force alike taking part in JOTC, requested to be 
there, knowing the brutal training they would encounter. Those 
soldiers included officers and enlisted men alike. They would all be 
equally treated during the brutal training with rank having no 
privilege during the operations. The reasoning behind requesting that 
duty assignment training was, once candidates successfully completed 
the JOTC course and were awarded the JOTC insignia patch, they 
would be held in high esteem by their fellow comrades, officers and 
ranking sergeants, throughout their duty assignments during their 
military careers, and would be on the quick path to promotion. For 
career soldiers, it also trained them how to survive jungle warfare, as 
all of those soldiers were either serving in Vietnam at the present 
time, or were going to receive orders sending them to Vietnam very 
soon. Career soldiers fighting in the jungles of Southeast Asia 
knew the value of that extreme training, taking on the 
endeavor without hesitation. 

There would also be complete battalions of South Vietnamese 
Army soldiers, known as the Army of the Republic of Vietnam 
(ARVN), who would be assigned to JOTC training without 
requesting it. The ARVNs that were assigned to JOTC did not have 
any say so in the matter. They were ordered by their Vietnamese 



224 Bud Monaco 



Commanders to take part in the training with no choice but to follow 
orders. The war in Vietnam was actually their war, and they should 
know the art of jungle warfare first-hand. Fm sure none of them 
wanted anything to do with that training, but there were no second 
choices for any of them. Their country had been embroiled in wars 
over many decades and centuries, and when those soldiers were kids, 
they studied arithmetic by counting shell casings. For many of them, 
it was the only life they ever knew. 

Many other American Allied countries such as Australia, 
England, and South Korea, just to name a few, had some of their 
special ops personnel attend JOTC under the Green Berets' 
command. The joint training classes were highly regarded 
throughout the Allied Commands around the world. 

The JOTC course trained Army light infantry task forces of 
platoon, company, and battalion sizes. Air Force Combat and Rescue 
Diver crews. Navy Riverine Forces, Navy Special Warfare 
Combatant Craft crewmen, Navy SEAL forces, and Marine Recon 
units in all aspects of jungle warfare. The first week consisted of 
individual soldier and squad skills performed in a jungle 
environment. The skills included knowledge of jungle plants, jungle 
terrain, survival living, map reading, land navigation, land mines, 
booby-traps, jungle combat techniques, waterbome operations, and 
other specialized training. 

The second week consisted of situation training exercises, 
including deliberate platoon attacks, raids, ambushes, company 
cordons and searches, sapper, and riverine demolition missions. The 
trainees would continue to be harassed and exploited with no 
remorse at all times by the aggressor forces who knew in advance 
their locations and operations. 

The aggressor forces had a field day busting the trainee's balls 
time after time, and they quickly came to hate the aggressor forces 
vehemently. We caused them a lot of grief For instance, if we forced 
any combat, infiltrating, booby trap, or ambush situations upon them, 
they would have to quickly and correctly resolve it. If they did not 
get it done right, they would be docked points that would affect their 
graduating grades. No aggressor wanted to be captured by the 
trainees and become a Prisoner Of War, which would be a real 
nightmare for any aggressor. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 225 



A Green Beret Cadre field instructor would accompany each 
mission, and each squad, each platoon, and every trainee would be 
graded for each mission by the field instructor. It was one tough course 
to pass, and would be a trying accomplishment by any individual 
trooper to survive, not get washed out, and be awarded the highly 
coveted JOTC Distinctive Patch. 

So without further ado, we were instructed to get back in the 
truck, leaving the secure confines of Fort Sherman, were driven some 
miles away to a small jungle clearing where we dismounted with our 
gear and fell into formation. We were met there by a Green Beret 

master sergeant who would be 
the NCO in charge (NCOIC) 
for the remainder of our 
assignment at JOTC. 

After he introduced 

himself to us, once again, we 

^JK^^^^^^^M ^^i*^ ^^^^ what was expected of 

us and that by following orders 
properly we would get through 
the detail without any problems. 
^^^ — ^^^s^mgkM With the Green Beret Cadre, if 
there were any problems, they would be our problems. Those Snake 
Eaters Special Forces soldiers had no problems and took no part in 
anyone else's problems. They created prohltms for other soldiers to 
fix. Rank, as usual, had its privilege, especially when fueled by fear. 
He also stated, 'That any soldier not following orders properly would 
have hell to pay one way or another." He was an imposing lifer, 
standing well over six feet tall, and had the look about him that told 
a soldier under his command not to ever challenge him, or even think 
about fucking with him. He had all the same dangerous looking traits 
as our SGTMAJ back at Fort Kobbe, except he was much taller, and 
had a sharp, eagle nose, with a heavy, brick-like, protruding jaw. 

He told us to grab our gear and we followed him out of the 
clearing into the jungle. We walked through the jungle for about a 
quarter of a mile, down a slight embankment, crossed a knee-deep 
creek that ran through the base camp area, and about another eighth 
of a mile further, we came to a clearing, which had a half-dozen 




226 Bud Monaco 



Army tents already in place around the JOTC Headquarters base camp 
compound. There was also a helicopter landing zone (LZ) located 
near the perimeter of the base camp. 

. The aggressor force tent at the base camp was located as far 
away as possible from the trainees' base camp on the top of a ridge 
overlooking Gatun Lake where it sloped down about fifteen yards to 
the water's edge. To get to our tent, on the other side of the creek, we 
had to walk through the creek to get there. Damn, that would be 
home base for us for the next two weeks. That flea-bag motel back in 
Clarksville, TN, was sure looking good now. 

The base camp was not very inviting at all, and that was as good 
as it was going to get. But, being there in that base camp would be a 
welcome place to be in that secure location, and would be greatly 
appreciated, compared to the time we would be spending tramping 
around out in the jungle for days at a time. 

We were directed to our tent, as I said, which could only be 
accessed by walking through the creek, and that would be part of our 
daily routine. First thing in the morning, get your boots and feet wet. 

Last thing at night to get back to 
your bunk, get your boots and feet 
wet. The tent had two dozen Army 
cots lined up inside and we were 
assigned our places. The tent was 
set up right on the ground, with 
jungle brush grass still growing in- 
side, and only a few plywood 
boards placed down the center 
aisle. We then were instructed to 
fall out into formation for our first 
briefing. The MSGT explained to us how we would be dispersed 
over the next days and nights. Mainly in six-man squads, to locate, 
harass, and cause as much grief as possible as an enemy fighting 
force against the JOTC trainees travelling through the acres 
upon acres, and miles upon miles of jungle terrain that 
covered the course. 

The MSGT also told us, during our patrols, a knowledgeable 
Green Beret SGT, who could read a map, use a compass, and who 




DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 227 



was familiar with the course terrain, would be the NCOIC of such 
patrols, and accompanying us through the jungle most of the time. 
He further explained there would be situations when we would be 
left on our own for periods of time during an exercise, but we must 
always remain at our positions, or designated fall back positions, 
until the NCOIC returned to guide us back from wherever the hell 
we were in the jungle. We were told, with extreme instructions of no 
few words, not to try to move around in the jungle on our own, 
because it was very easy to get lost and die in the jungle, and it was 
very hard to survive once you were lost. We would be out in the real 
shit with safety and survival being the utmost concern. The Green 
Berets and the Army sure didn't want to be losing any soldiers in the 
jungle and looking bad in the eyes of the Brass. I don't think they 
cared as much about us, as they cared about them getting a bad 
review on their promotion files. Yeah, right. I would learn those words 
of wisdom about not getting lost were never truer spoken just a few 
weeks down the road. And it wouldn't be pretty at all. 

We then were told to go over to the Command Post tent where 
there were stacks of C-Ration boxes piled up, and instructed to 
collect up our ration of boxes we would have for food for the next 
few days. The boxes of C-Rations were strictly accounted for by 
another Green Beret SGT. There was also a Water Buffalo tank next 
to the CP, and we were told exactly how much water each of us would 
be rationed each day. Clean drinking water was at a real premium 
out here in the bush, and was watched over very carefully by the 
Cadre running the base camp. The water was to be used only for 
drinking, cooking, and shaving. Any bathing would be done by 
climbing down the slope into Gatun Lake naked, with only a bar of 
soap and a towel, for any and all body-cleaning sanitation. 

Then you had to climb back up the slope barefoot and naked, in 
ankle deep muddy soil, having to use your shaving water to clean 
your feet again before putting on dry, clean, and more often than not, 
a dirty pair of socks. Just swell. 

As for the latrines, well that was a whole new ballgame, and 
pretty rank just like the slit trenches we had to use during the 
Combat Alert. In that case, out in the jungle, where keeping away, as 
much as possible that is, the swarms of flying insects, crawling bugs 



228 Bud Monaco 



and animals, was a high priority. About twenty yards from our tent, 
down a well-worn narrow path through the jungle, in a very small 
cleared area, were two, fifty-five gallon drums, cut down about a 
third of their size, with dirty, wooden, fabricated-type toilet seats 
laid across the tops of them. It was real upscale with a shit-can and a 
seat, compared to a slit trench. I guess that was where the proverbial 
term 'shit-can' was originated. It was the only designated place to 
shit or piss while in our aggressor tent area. Anyone caught shitting 
or pissing anywhere else would be beaten severely about the head 
and shoulders. Lovely. Just lovely. 

When the barrels were full of shit, of course, the Army had a 
proper, by the book, way of disposing it, by pouring diesel fuel over 
the shit and setting it on fire. As the top layers of the shit burned off, 
a detailed soldier would be standing over it stirring it around in the 
drum with a tree branch, so the bottom layers of shit would be able to 
burn all the way through. Then whatever was left of the shit and 
ashes, which was more like a wet, blackened sludge, had to be 
carried by two soldiers, poured out and buried, yards away from this 
location, after digging a hole with an entrenching tool, pouring the 
ashes and remaining unburned shit into the hole, covered the shit and 
ashes back up, then mark the hole with a white-colored stick so no 
one re-dug up the same shit-hole. 

Talk about some nasty smelling stink. It topped anything you 
could ever imagine or think of, and you know, of course, the FNG 
cherries would be the first ones designated to be the shit-burners 
and, of course, you know, I was one of the first FNGs to be detailed to 
be a shit-burner just a day later. The rotting jungle vegetation we had 
dug up during the Combat Alert was like smelling roses compared to 
this ungodly, putrid, gagging smell. Holy fucking geeezzzusss, it was 
absolutely brutal. They say the only thing worse than the smell of 
burning shit is a dead and decaying burning human body. I sure hoped 
I would not have to encounter that. All you could do was gut it out, 
soldier on, and say, "It's just another day in the Army." Damn. 
Repeating that line was becoming a mantra, and I didn't even know 
for sure what a mantra was. 

I feel I must mention again, as I don't want to sound like I was 
a light-weight, cry baby, green-ass pansy for the training I went 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 229 



through, compared to other extreme mihtary training. But none of 
the training in Basic, AIT, mortar platoon, any of the Combat Alerts, 
or the details at JOTC could ever come close to the demands of real 
combat, or the training that Army Special Forces, Army Rangers, 
Army Delta Force, Army, Navy, or Air Force Airborne Training 
Courses, Navy SEALS, Navy Special Warfare Combatant Craft 
Crewmen, JOTC, the Marines Force Recon, Air Force Pararescue, 
Air Force Combat and Rescue Diver Crews, Coast Guard Rescue 
Swimmer Course, and Special Ops training done by the Army, Navy, 
Marines, Coast Guard, and Air Force. There was also the extreme 
mental and physical training that the newly recruited Naval 
Academy Midshipmen in Annapolis, the Army Cadets at West Point, 
as well as the men and women attending Officer Candidate School 
(OCS), in order to become officers, must contend with. The stuff we 
had to deal with was nothing compared with what those other 
specialized training courses had a military man or woman deal with. 

Those courses were total, kick-ass, with forced sleep 
deprivation and complete mental breakdown put upon military men 
and women pushing them to the ultimate limits of their minds and 
bodies. Many of the candidates washed out of the courses, some in 
the first few days, and others it took a little longer. Only the absolute 
best and strongest bodies and minds made it through those 
physically and mentally destroying training courses. 

All of those units hold annual competitions that push the 
competitors to even the next level of further extremes to designate 
the best of the best. And, those military men and women are all 
volunteers who choose to join these elite units. They revel in their 
roles at the highest level of Espirt de Corps to be the elite of their 
units, serving their country with pride and motivation second to none. 
Talk about wanting to be the best you can be, damn, that is the 
ultimate of being the best. I hold any military person who graduated 
from those courses in the highest regard. 

The first night at our base camp at JOTC passed quickly, and at 
first light a Green Beret Cadre SGT came into our tent to wake us up. 
Even though the tropical heat was blistering during the day and 
throughout the night, there was always a pre-dawn chill with 
dampness in the air that sent shivers right to your bones. A light 



230 Bud Monaco 



mantle of fog shrouded the base camp, giving off an eerie feeUng 
until the rising sun burned off the fog once the sunlight 
penetrated the jungle. 

We quickly got dressed, brushed our teeth, shaved, put on our 
combat gear, took up our weapons, and headed over to the mustering 
area of the base camp, having to walk through the creek to get there, 
getting our boots and feet wet right from the git-go. Once we lined 
up in formation, one of the Green Berets Cadre started handing out 
assignments. We were broken down into six-man squads, and each 
squad was assigned a Green Beret SGT to be our squad leader. The 
Green Beret MSGT, who had joined the muster, once again told us, 
in no uncertain words, to follow orders to the letter, don't wander off 
from the squad's movements, and to pay close attention to every 
detail the squad leader ordered at all times. He explicitly told us again, 
that getting lost in the jungle could easily cause anyone of us to die 
out there. Proper movements and procedures must be adhered to at 
all cost. No exceptions and no deviations would be acceptable. 

We then were given a twenty minute break to wolf down some 
C-Rations for breakfast, and then were led out of the base camp by 
our squad leader into the jungle. Even though the JOTC course 
covered such a large area, it did have designated trails and areas where 
the training would be taking place. Our squad leader knew where the 
trails and locations were, but he still stopped the squad's movements 
every twenty minutes or so to take a compass reading with his Army 
issued M-1950 lensatic compass to be sure he knew exactly where 
we were at all times. He also took the time to teach us how to read 
and use the compass so that we would eventually be able to find our 
way around using a compass. That was done to give us survival 
training, even though we were not officially assigned to that training, 
but it helped train us just the same, as we would need that training in 
the long run, either at JOTC or later during our military tours. Every 
soldier had to know how to use the compass properly, no matter what 
the mission might be. It was life-saving training that was absolutely 
necessary for all soldiers. 

Heading deeper into the jungle, after about an hour of walking 
and hacking through the undergrowth with our machetes, even though 
there was a small, narrow trail, the trail was still thick with growth. 



DRAFTED: You Ve In The Army Now ! 231 

we arrived at our first ambush point. The SGT radioed back to HQ 
that we were in position, and he had us spread out into the classic 
L-shaped ambush position, where we laid down in firing positions. 
We were in triple canopy jungle, and for the life of us, we 
couldn't figure out how any opposing force would be finding 
their way to that location. 

The jungle growth was thick with brush and trees, and we could 
hardly see ten feet in front of us. Once we had our firing positions, 
one by one, the SGT showed us the position we would regroup and 
fall back to once we executed the ambush. He emphasized not to run 
or fall back to any other position, making sure we all understood him 
completely. Once we executed the ambush, we would have to quickly 
fall back to the exit position and get the hell out of Dodge before the 
enemy we were ambushing could regroup and overrun our 
positions or capture any of us. 

While waiting in ambush, there would be no talking, smoking, 
drinking water, or any movement. One cool thing about the ambush 
set-up was, the squad leader knew where the trainee enemy force 
was going to be, as their objective was mapped out, and they had to 

use their compass to follow a 
prescribed travel path. We knew the 
location where we were, but they 
didn't. The SGT told us to hunker 
down, stay quiet, and told us he was 
going off to locate the trainees, 
making sure they were heading into 
our trap. A few minutes later, he 
arrived back at the ambush site and 
told us to place a magazine of M- 1 6 blank ammunition into our rifles, 
to lock and load a round into our rifle chambers, and the approach 
of the enemy was imminent. 

Sure as shit, a little while later, we heard, and then saw, the 
enemy point man peering through the jungle about ten yards from 
the ambush site. We could see him, but he could not see us lying in 
wait. Once he retreated back a few yards to his patrol to give the all 
clear, our SGT gave the order to take our safeties off and to fire only 
on his command. The point man reappeared with the rest of the 




232 Bud Monaco 



patrol following quietly, and they all walked right into our L-shaped 
ambush killing zone like sheep into the slaughter house. Once most 
of the patrol was inside the killing zone, still totally unaware of our 
presence, the SGT gave us the command, "Commence firing!" Bam, 
bam, bam, bam! We all started firing at once and lit that patrol up 
real good. They didn't know what hit them. They tried to scramble 
out of the killing zone to take cover, but eight out of twelve of them 
would have been killed immediately, not having a chance to return 
fire, before our SGT gave the order to fall back, regroup, and get 
the hell out of there. 

Holy shit was that cool. From the dead silence of the jungle, 
which becomes deadly silent when the bugs, birds, and animals hear 
or see any humans moving around, to the deafening sounds of a half 
dozen M-16s blasting away with soldiers screaming out to take cover, 
fall back, and crashing around in the bush, shattering the silence in 
the jungle with a momentous roar. Damn, it scared the shit out of us, 
and had to scare the living shit out of them, as we knew it was 
coming, and they didn't. 

Our ambush squad quickly fell back to our withdrawal position, 
and the SGT took a fast head count to make sure we were all 
accounted for. We busted a move out of there through the jungle 
following the SGT, as we scrambled through the bush without 
hesitation. After about fifteen minutes, the SGT halted the 
squad, took another head count, checked his compass, and we 
continued deeper into the jungle. 

Once we were far enough away from the ambush site, we halted, 
gathering around the SGT, and he told us that we had executed the 
ambush perfectly, and did a fine job withdrawing. He told us that we 
could take a five minute water and smoke break. Soon as the time 
was up, he took another compass reading, and we continued further 
into the jungle for our next mission of the day. We were all pumped 
up, very excited, sweating like wild hogs from the exertion of the 
ambush, and busting our move away from the enemy. Our first 
mission was a complete success. It was pretty exhilarating for sure. 

The SGT now led us to our next ambush site, and after 
numerous compass readings, we came to a similar location in the 
jungle, hunkering down into another L-shaped ambush. By now, it 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 233 

was sometime around noon. The SGT told us to break out some 
C-Rations and have a quick bite to eat. As soon as we finished eating 
out of the cans of C-Rats, we had to dig a small hole, bury the trash, 
and resume our firing positions. The SGT again radioed back to HQs 
that we were in position, and we waited out the arrival of the next 
enemy patrol. That didn't happen any time soon, as when the SGT 
went looking for them, upon his return, he told us that the enemy 
patrol had gotten lost, so it took more than two hours for them to get 
back on track to arrive at our position. What was not so bad before, 
had now become really fucked up, as we were lying on the wet jungle 
floor in the undergrowth, with the heat and the bugs kicking our asses. 
Not so much fun anymore. 

Finally, we once again see the point man of the patrol slowly 
and carefully moving towards our position, peeking through the 
jungle. That was a different patrol than the previous one, and once 
again the point man led them right into our ambush. It was not as big 
of a fuck up as it seemed by the point man, as the jungle was so thick 
with vegetation, even the best trained point man could not always 
locate an ambush lying in wait. That was one of the main aspects of 
JOTC training. Trainees had to learn what to look for, and how to 
react once an ambush was encountered. During the first days of JOTC 
training, most of the trainees did not react well at all, but during the 
following days they would quickly learn, and the ambushes were not 
as easy to pull off by the aggressor forces. Lots of fast-adapting 
tactics would be learned and used by both sides. 

As we lay in wait, sure as shit, the enemy patrol walked right 
into our ambush without a clue. The same procedures were taken by 
our squad. Then the patrol was in the killing zone. Bam, bam, bam, 
baml We lit them up again with overwhelming fire power, as the 
deadly silence of the jungle was shattered by the sounds of 
conUnuous M-16 rifle fire, with blank ammo of course, technically, 
killing them all. They didn't have a chance. As with the first ambush, 
we fell back to a prescribed rally point and got the hell out of 
there as fast as we could. 

We could sfill hear the enemy patrol firing their weapons at an 
unseen enemy that had already left the ambush site. They were in a 
world of shit, freaking out and trying to find targets to shoot at while 



234 Bud Monaco 



they tried to take cover. That was pretty funny, but I'm sure they 
were not having any fun, as the Green Beret Cadre instructor 
embedded with their patrol was kicking ass and taking names that 
would go on their training records on who got killed that time, and 
how bad they fucked up getting caught in the crossfire of a deadly 
ambush. You learn from your mistakes, if you are smart. They would 
all become much smarter in a short period of days to come, or they 
would be washed out one-by-one. 

It was now late afternoon. The SGT told us we were heading 
back to the base camp, and our missions for the day were complete. 
He told us we had done a real good job, and if we continued to work 
with him in that manner, we would have more fun as the next two 
weeks of JOTC continued to its end. Funl What fun? There wasn't 
any fucking fun! Goddamned, we were beat to living shit, tramping 
around in the jungle, running through the shit, and sweating our balls 
off! But to each his own I guess, and at least it was/ww for him. 

It took us about two hours to extricate ourselves from the jungle 
and arrive back at the base camp. We were covered in stinking mud, 
sweat soaked to the bone, and beat to shit tired. We were sent back to 
our tent to clean up, told to report back to the base camp muster 
area for a debriefing, and to collect our C-Rations that would 
be our dinner for the day. 

Cleaning up turned out to be a not-so-easy chore. First, clean 
our weapons thoroughly, second, clean our web gear we were 
wearing, including both canteens and pouches, both ammo pouches, 
bayonet and scabbard, entrenching tool and cover, back packs, steel 
pot helmets and helmet liners. Then we stripped down naked, 
removing the filthy fatigues we were wearing, climbed down the slope 
and into Gatun Lake to rinse out our filthy fatigues in the lake water 
the best we could, and clean our bodies with soap. Back in the tent, 
we hung up the wet fatigues to dry, and put on dry clothing before 
heading over to the debriefing. 

Falling into formation, the MSGT and the squad leader SGT 
went over the completed missions, and complimented us on a job 
well done. Top then gave the order for us to fall out for dinner, retreat 
to our tents, and prepare for the following morning's upcoming 
missions. Damn, what a relief it was to sit on our bunks and relax for 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 235 



a few hours before last call. Dead-ass tired, we all fell asleep real 
fast, not looking forward to the morning's first call. The off-duty 
time was never totally off-duty. Someone still had to stand guard 
duty throughout the night, which was done in one-hour shifts the 
same way we all learned to do this, just like fire guard duty, in Basic 
and AIT. It wasn't too bad, but having to get up for an hour guard 
duty time in the middle of the night wasn't something that anyone 
wanted to do. There was no second choice. It was a very interesting 
but exhausting day, and it was just the first day of missions. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 237 



Chapter 36 

That Was Only The First Day 

''A Good Military Leader Teaches Well. 
A Good Learning Soldier Learns Well. 

Good Convictions Learned Well, 

Presents The Will To Carry On." 

The next day played out the same way as the first. We had first 
call in the pre-dawn darkness, did our wake up routines, saddled 
up, and headed over to the muster area of the compound to be given 
our assignments for the day. The same Green Beret Cadre SGT was 
our squad leader again, and as soon as we wolfed down our 
breakfast C-Rations, we were off into the jungle for two more 
ambush missions. 

Once we were about an hour into our walk in the sun, which we 
didn't actually see much sun because of the triple canopy jungle 
overhead, the SGT halted our march and had us gather around him. 
He told us during the mission, that each one of us would take turns 
finding our way to our objectives. He then taught us how to read the 
compass to figure out the proper azimuths and directions, which we 
had learned during our land navigation courses in Basic and AIT, 
although no one remembered how, and showed us where we were on 
a map. He said that we all should know how to read the 
compass properly, as this was necessary for all soldiers to know 
and could save our lives. 

The Green Berets took extra time to train us as the aggressor 
force soldiers even though we were not specifically there for 
training. But as long as we were there, they wanted us to learn more 
about soldiering, and become integrated into the training. The SGT 
was teaching us to function by procedure and repetition so that every 
move we made would become second nature to us. With the 
additional training we would always be ready. Ready and trained in a 
sustained measure of cadence, bring down hell on the enemy, and 
fight to the death if necessary. Nobody wanted to fight, but someone 
should know how, that was for damn sure. 

Those Green Berets wanted to be here. They loved the 
challenges. Panama and JOTC was a lifer's playground during the 



238 Bud Monaco 



Vietnam War years. The Green Berets were also on the lookout for 
possible recruits to join up with them if they came across a soldier 
who had the right tools and right mind set. None of us fit into that 
category, and none of us had any consideration whatsoever to 
re-enlist and sign up for training with the Green Berets. All of us 
were draftees. The only thing we had on our minds was to get short, 
get out of the Army, and get back to the World. 

We continued deeper into the jungle to our first objective of the 
day to set up another ambush. Getting to the location took us about 
an hour or so of more tramping through the thick jungle vegetation. 
The floor of the jungle we were walking through was thick with broad 
leaf plants, shoulder to waist high, and trees of all shapes and sizes. 
It was like walking through a solid wall of vegetation. In the vast, 
un-relenting denseness of the jungle, at times, it felt like there was 
something lurking out there beyond our sight lines, a malignant power, 
and cursed with an unmentionable force. We were all soaked to the 
bone with sweat, and our boots, feet, and lower legs were soaked 
through and through from the ever-present mud. We had traded off 
taking turns using the compass readings, closely monitored by our 
SGT every step of the way, to arrive at the correct location. We settled 
in and took our places at the ambush site. We were locked, loaded, 
and ready to light up the platoon of trainees heading our 
way with rifle-fire. 

At first, we heard, and then saw the point man of the enemy 
platoon trying to peer through the ground clusters of vegetation, and 
we waited for the order to open fire. But the enemy platoon did not 
show up like we expected. They had learned a few new tactics of 
their own since yesterday's beatings. We didn't know what was 
going on, and the SGT quietly crawled around to each of our fighting 
positions telling us to be prepared to get the hell out of there to our 
prescribed fallback position on his command. He also whispered to 
each of us that he was going into the bush to do some recon, and find 
out what was up with the enemy platoon. 

After about fifteen minutes, he slithered back to our positions 
as quietly as a snake, which he did smoothly and unobserved by us, 
and we were looking for him. He quickly had us move our fighting 
positions in a different arrangement. He had located the enemy 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 239 



platoon, and although they didn't know exactly where we were, they 
had sent out soldiers to try to recon and flank the general area they 
were figuring us to be in, trying to approach fiom a different 
position. With the relocated positions, we changed the present 
L-shaped ambush configuration into a quick reverse L-shaped set 
up. When the point man reappeared from the opposite flank, now 
thinking the area was secure, he led them right into our ambush. We 
lit them up real good the moment our SGT gave the order to open 
fire. Bam, Bam, Bam, Bam! The silence was shattered in a deafening 
roar and blaze of rifle fire, but that time the enemy platoon was 
expecting something to happen. They quickly took cover, moved up 
into a firing line together, and were firing back at us, as only the first 
three or four of them got caught in our ambush crossfire. 

Man, were they pissed off They thought they had the ambush 
figured out, but our SGT was smarter than their point man and their 
platoon SGT. They had the shit handed to them once again. Once we 
lit them up, we pulled out, regrouped at our fallback position, and 
busted ass through the jungle to put some distance between us and 
them, disappearing into the maze of jungle. We were laughing our 
asses off and thinking real highly of ourselves, but the SGT put a 
quick end to that. He told us to, ''Shut the fuck up and keep 
moving." The enemy platoon guys were now attempting to track us 
down, trying to get clear shots at us, and maybe even capture one of 
us. So we moved like our asses were on fire until the lingering rifle 
fire and noise from the enemy platoon died down, and only the sounds 
of the jungle and our boots in the sucking mud were audible. 

Damn, that was a close call. We almost wound up biting the 
bullet. We continued on for another click or two before we pulled up, 
set up flanking sentries, and were able to take a ten minute break. If 
we were beat up before, we were really beat up now. Huffing 
and puffing like wild dogs, but we got the job done and were 
feeling pretty good about ourselves. 

Smashing through the jungle on the run was a real bitch and no 
easy chore. There was no time to use our machetes to cut a path, and 
the route we took had no path whatsoever. It was just solid jungle 
underbrush and trees that we had to fight through and dodge around 
every step of the way. 



240 Bud Monaco 



More about the jungle. The jungle was a seriously foreboding 
place to be under any circumstances. Whether there was an enemy 
out there trying to hunt you down and kill you, or you were just out 
for a stroll looking to pick some bananas, sure as shit, the jungle 
itself could kill you. The jungle was a living, breathing entity of its 
own, and could never be taken lightly. If the jungle was its own 
living entity, it had no heart and gave no quarter. Over eons of time, 
the jungle became a well-established way station on the road to 
oblivion, and you needed wings to stay above the deadly shit that the 
jungle could impale you with in many ways. 

The triple canopy, rain forest, Darien jungle of Panama in 
Central America, capable of monsoon rains in a moment, was one of 
the most inhospitable places on earth. The triple canopy was a vast 
cathedral of vegetation, showing only an occasional glimpse of the 
sun's light, if any at all. The jungle had at least three layers of canopy, 
some upwards of a hundred feet or more, with some of the tallest 
being the giant Banyan trees making up part of the top level of canopy. 
The gigantic roots of the Banyan trees grew mostly, three to four feet 
above ground, with its roots deeply embedded in the jungle floor. 
Soldiers seemed like little ants compared to the tree roots. We would 
have to, at times, climb and crawl over the roots themselves the size 
of normal trees to continue moving forward. The next sized trees, 
grew about as tall as the Banyan trees, making up the second level of 
jungle canopy. These were the Ochroma Balsa trees, which balsa 
wood was made out of, and they grew up to a hundred feet tall. They 
also had large flowers that, uniquely, only opened at night. The flower 
nectar drew a host of wildlife, including monkeys, birds, bats, snakes, 
reptiles, and insects. The third level of canopy was made up of smaller 
trees, bushes, jungle grass, undergrowth too numerous to name, and 
the feared and deadly Black Palm trees and bushes. 

Black Palm. Holy fucking shit! The Devil's demon of 
vegetation. Black Palm, was a bad-ass mother chucker of a jungle 
plant. It could grow in a thin, small, eight foot tree size with the 
branches growing from the ground level and up. Or, it could grow 
like a somewhat round bush lower to the ground a few feet tall. The 
dark black color of the palm did not stand out very well for a soldier 
to be able to see, as it meshed in well with the rest of the jungle 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 241 



foliage. The branches on either the tree or bush sprouted both thick 
and needle thin spires of a plastic-like brittle growth, with razor sharp 
points on the ends like a porcupine's quills, growing out from 
the center of the plant. 

You did not even have to jam your hand, arm, leg or face into 
the points for the ends of them to break off and penetrate your skin. 
With just the slightest brush or touch, the tips would easily break off, 
embedding themselves into and under your skin, kind of like the way 
a magnet draws metal shavings to it, and you were fucked. Getting 
the slivers of Black Palm out from under your skin was brutal. If you 
got fully stabbed with a Black Palm point, it could easily penetrate 
through your fatigue shirt, skin and muscle, right to the bone. It was 
like getting stabbed with an ice pick. The Black Palm was some real 
nasty shit and it was everywhere. You had to be on the lookout for it 
at all times or you would pay a severe cost for not doing so. A lot of 
times, you never even saw the Black Palm that attacked you. In the 
thick jungle vegetation, it was easily camouflaged and un-seen, 
until it was too late. Everyone paid the cost at one time or 
another, and more than once. 

All of us were on the lookout for the Black Palm, but to no 
avail. Everyone wound up with the shit jammed into their skin 
eventually, I was no exception, and more than once. Actually, many 
times during our rushes through the jungle, you didn't have time to 
look for that shit, and if you had to lie down and take cover quickly, 
you never had time to actually see what you were jumping onto or into. 

Once you got nailed with Black Palm, within hours you had to 
dig it out of your skin, or it could cause a serious infection in a short 
period of time. Most of the time you would have to go see an Army 
medic and have them remove the palm points and slivers from your 
skin with a tweezers. Sometimes, they actually had to make an 
incision with a small scalpel if you had a large piece stuck deep 
under your skin. It was probably some of the most unpleasant shit 
you could have happen to you. I wound up getting that palm jammed 
into my skin numerous times during the training at JOTC. It was 
an occupational hazard that was absolutely unavoidable. No one 
was immune. Marvelous. Just marvelous. 

The jungle had many different terrains, some being lowland 



242 Bud Monaco 



foothills, rock barrier-banked rivers, creeks, canal ditches filled with 
rainwater run-off, rising slopes of virgin jungle containing lush and 
soggy vegetation, trees, underbrush growth, and a labyrinth of 
endless vines that would grab at your feet, legs and arms, as if the 
jungle itself was trying to grab hold of you, and pull you into its 
gauntlet of a green world. 

In places it was a quagmire of calf-deep mud that could suck 
the boots right off your feet, with blood-sucking leeches in the mud 
or water that attached to your skin, and you had to burn them off with 
a lit cigarette to remove them. The smells of the jungle were 
encroaching, oppressive with a rotting, wet vegetation smell that was 
always present, causing your stomach to go into a gagging frenzy. 
The deprivation of the unimaginably dense, impenetrable jungle, 
could easily collapse your moral and physical strength, with further 
crossing of hills and steeper ridges that you would have to hack your 
way through with a machete, zapping the drive to survive right out of 
your physical capacities. Those were just a few of the reasons why it 
took a strong man to overcome it, and survive. The jungle made a 
man feel small and insignificant. A soldier had to stay as alert as a 
one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest, or a human could 
easily be swallowed up by the jungle. There was no room for 
dancing out in the shit. 

Deep in the jungle, shut out from the world, there were also the 
millions of bugs, deadly malaria carrying mosquitoes, and flying 
insects the size of small birds. Some of the bugs and insects were the 
Giant Rain Forest Mantis, a very aggressive, major killer-bug 
predator that used camouflage and ate it victims alive, the Giant Spiky 
Leaf Insect, which was so strange, almost alien or prehistoric, with 
its big, ugly brown, heavy armor and razor sharp spikes, it looked 
like it was from another planet. There were a host of other insects to 
boot, like the Bull Ant that was one inch long and one of the world's 
largest with a stinger, known as the Pit Bull of the insect world, the 
Trap Jaw Ant, the White Tail Spider, the Black House Spider, the 
Swift Tree Mantis, the Ogre-faced Spider, the Assassin Bug, the 
Whistling Tarantula, the Marbled Scorpion, the Garden Wolf Spider, 
the Metallic Green Jumping Spider, the Giant House Centipede, the 
Bulldog Raspy Cricket, and the Red Back Spider with super-toxic 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 243 



venom. Many of those insects were murderous and carnivorous, 
and some could be very deadly. 

There were snakes of all sizes, six inches to twenty feet long, 
giant anteaters, large as five feet long that would attack if startled, 
iguanas, lizards, large human sized Howler monkeys that would 
silently wait perched high up in the canopy until you got close to 
them. Then they would shatter the jungle silence and start screaming 
like banshees at the soldiers passing below them, scaring the living 
shit out of everyone enough to make you piss your pants. 

There were also smaller sized Spider monkeys that would perch 
silently in the canopy, numbered in the hundreds, and when they felt 
threatened as soldiers passed underneath them, they would start 
screaming all at once like banshees, go rampaging through the canopy 
in a flash, sounding like an airplane crashing through the canopy, 
scaring the living shit out of us further, and you could not even see 
them through the canopy. Birds of all sizes and colors, sloths, 
possums, and many other ground and tree-living animals made their 
home there as well. The jungle was a zoo without cages. As said 
before, in the jungle it was easy to die, but hard to live and survive in. 
We humans were just passing through. 

Did I mention the monsoon rains in the Darien jungle rain 
forest? Well, with everything else the jungle could throw at you, the 
monsoons sure put the icing on the cake. In the southern equatorial 
winter, where the north and south trade winds collide in a belt of 
equatorial monsoon rains, the light-depriving, giant cumulus clouds 
of the monsoons blotted out what little sun penetrated the jungle, 
drenching the defiant, untrodden jungle, bringing down from the sky 
a driving deluge twice a year for weeks and months at a time. 
It would be steady and heavy, pouring down in torrents, causing a 
perpetual wetness, further adding to the already perpetual wetness 
of the jungle, with its full fury, further testing a soldier's moral and 
mental strengths. Even when the rain stopped, the canopy continued 
to relentlessly drip water running off of the trees and foliage onto 
anything or anyone below. Nothing and no one could stay dry. The 
monsoon rains totally penetrated everything in their wake. Jungle rot 
was a constant hazard for soldiers, as being continuously wet, 
bone-deep, from boots to helmet, a man's feet, ears, crotch, assholes. 



244 Bud Monaco 



and arm pits would be penetrated deep through his skin, sometimes 
causing trench foot and other debilitating skin diseases if 
not properly being taken care of, as best as could be done under 
the circumstances. 

Coupling all the attacks by the jungle, the soldiers still had to 
cope with the constant, dozens and dozens of insect bites, and 
jiggers embedding themselves into your skin around your waist, 
wrists, and boot tops. Skin embedded with Black Palm, scratches 
getting infected from other ground bushes and trees, along with the 
heat, humidity, heat stroke, dehydration, and outright damned 
physical and mental breakdown. It was surely a special place of hell 
on earth for a soldier to endure and survive. If all that terror the jungle 
had to offer during the daylight hours, night time, in the pitch black, 
was a whole 'nother ballgame that could make the brutal day time 
seem like paradise. At any time of the day or night, you would look 
and feel like someone ironed and beat your body and clothes to shit 
with a coal shovel or an entrenching tool. The jungle was not a place 
for goofballs, the faint of heart, or a weak mind. You just had to suck 
it up, eat dirt, soldier on, and keep on driving. Lovely. Just lovely. 

The next four days at JOTC were mostly the same type of 
operations. Up before dawn, muster in the HQ compound, receive 
our objectives for the day, beat feet out into the jungle, fire up the 
trainees with ambushes, head back to the compound for debriefmg, 
chow, clean up, and back into our racks for the night. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 245 



Chapter 37 

It's Really Dark In The Jungle At Night 

''Fear Of The Dark Can Be Overcome. 

Fear Of The Unknown Can Be Overcome. 

Fear Of The Jungle Should Never Be Taken Lightly. 

Keep Control But Keep Some Fear 

It Will Keep You Sane And Always Aware.'' 

The beginning of the second week at JOTC, after we had 
mustered up in the HQ compound, the Green Beret 
MSGT told our squad that we would be going on our first night 
mission, and we would have the morning and afternoon off to do 
maintenance on our gear, clean our rifles, and get a few hours of 
shut-eye before the evening came around. 

Just before sunset, we mustered up in the HQ compound for our 
mission orders. We were told that we would be going out to execute 
a night ambush. Before we headed out into the night, the MSGT told 
us to pay close attention to our Cadre squad leader every step of the 
way so that no one would get lost in the jungle. He made a major 
point of that, and said with a few words of wisdom, "You get lost in 
the jungle at night and you ^vt fucked!' So out we went on our 
mission into the black Panamanian night with a very high pucker 
factor, paying close attention to our squad leader, and following 
him closely every step of the way. 

If the jungle was tough to negotiate in the daylight, it was really 
something else to negotiate in the total darkness with only the squad 
leader SGT knowing where we were going, and only his compass 
and map to use for direction. Foreboding took on a whole 'nother 
meaning in the jungle at night. We had to close ranks real tight so 
that you could see and touch the soldier in front of you, keeping 
contact with him at all times. That was not as easy as it sounds. We 
were tramping through uncut jungle, tripping over vines we couldn't 
see on the ground, and trying to focus on the soldier in front of you. 
If one soldier fell off the pace and lost contact with the soldier in 
front of him, the soldiers behind that guy would also fall behind and 
wind up getting lost. The squad leader told us that if we did get 
separated, to stay put in one place, and he would back track to find 



246 Bud Monaco 



us. Trying to catch up and find the way forward to the rest of the 
squad in the dark was a no-win situation. So everyone stayed 
real close to each other. 

After about an hour or so, we pulled up, soaking wet with sweat, 
cut to shit from head-high jungle vegetation, and small trees, on our 
faces, hands, and arms, and set up an ambush site just like we had 
done before. The squad leader took us one by one, showing us where 
the fall back position was, making sure that none of us had any 
problem locating the position in the dark after we executed the 
ambush. It was a real piece of work trying to find places on the jungle 
floor to lie down in a fighting position, but the SGT took his time 
with us, and got us all in proper positions. We couldn't see anything 
more than a few feet in front of us in the pitch black, didn't know 
where the hell we were, and were wondering how in the hell could 
the trainees figure out how to find that particular location in the dark. 
We found out soon enough. The trainees had become very proficient 
in land navigation over the past week, and an hour or so later we 
could hear them coming our way. At night, sounds travelled through 
the jungle in haunting and conspiratorial tones. Just another jungle 
thing to further rattle our already rattled brains. 

That time around, we could not see the point man or locate any 
flankers, so the squad leader told us to stay absolutely quiet, sit tight 
and wait for his command to open fire. We then heard the point man 
approach our posiUon. He was trying to be silent, but the undergrowth 
of the jungle prevented him from doing so. We couldn't see him, 
but we sure knew he was close, and the rest of his patrol was 
close at hand as well. 

Within a few minutes, we heard more soldiers approaching our 
position, and only when we could barely see a few of them, looking 
like shadowy black wraiths in our killing zone, did the SGT give the 
command to open fire. And we did. Bam, Bam, Bam, Bam! The shots 
from our M- 1 6s rang out sharply, shattering the deadly silence of the 
jungle. Again, we lit that patrol up real good. After we unloaded two 
magazines of ammo each, the squad leader gave the command to fall 
back, and we all quickly did so. Arriving at the fall back position, the 
squad leader did a fast head count. We beat feet further into the jungle, 
and got our asses out of the area as fast as we could. We could still 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 247 



hear the enemy patrol firing their weapons at the ghosts that they 
thought were us, but we were long gone by then. 

After about another hour or so of tramping through the jungle, 
we pulled up and the SGT checked our coordinates with his compass 
and map to locate our heading to get us back to the base camp 
compound. About two hours later, which was very surprising to us, 
as we thought we were still deep in the jungle and far from the 
compound, we came into the compound clearing. Oh joy. It was cool 
to know that we had completed the mission, and safely arrived 
without anyone getting lost or injured. 

We mustered up as the MSGT appeared like a ghost out of 
nowhere from out of the darkness. We had a quick debriefing, Top 
told us that we had done a fine job during our night mission, and we 
were sent back to our tent for the rest of the night. There was only a 
few hours of darkness left before day break, and Top told us we could 
sleep in until 10:00 a.m.. More joy. Another successful mission 
completed, and we were all feeling pretty good about ourselves. Even 
under the primitive living quarters in the tent, we all fell asleep real 
fast, and slept soundly, being dead-tired after humping through the 
jungle in the dark for the past hours. 

The following day, when we awoke late in the morning, did our 
morning routines, and then we were told to work on our gear, getfing 
it cleaned up and ready for the next mission. With no mission 
assigned to us on that day, our mortar platoon SGT was handing out 
details that had to be done around our tent and the base camp. One of 
the details assigned two of us for the dreaded shit-burning detail for 
our shit-can in the aggressor camp area. Two other guys were 
assigned for the shit-burning detail over in the HQ base camp area. 
Of course, as always, the FNG cherries were assigned those details, 
and Louie and I had the privilege of burning the shit from our 
aggressor camp area. What another joy that was. Our shit-can was 
loaded to the brim, stinking to the high heavens, and even with the 
diesel fuel accelerant, it took over two hours for it all to burn, as we 
continually sfirred it with a tree branch like a witch's brew straight 
out of fucking Hell, having to bury the remains once the burn was 
finished. With the shit-burning smoke wafting through the air, 
carrying all over the compound, it was not a pretty sight, and the 



248 Bud Monaco 



smell gagged us grotesquely. We were sure glad when that 
detail came to an end. 

There were plenty of other details to attend to with the 
emptying of trash cans into a burn can and burning the trash, as well 
as tightening up tent poles and tent rope stanchions. We also had 
some time to wash out our filthy fatigues, underwear, and 
socks in Gatun Lake. 

Late in the afternoon. Top came around and told us we could eat 
our dinner C-Rations and have the rest of the night off. Top also told 
us that we would be assigned a new mission the following day that 
would be a full day and night out in the jungle, and to be absolutely 
prepared for a long-haul mission. He didn't give us any details, but 
we knew from the sternness of his orders that it was not going to be 
a walk in the sun. Nothing out here in the shit ever was. 

First call in the pre-dawn darkness came way too soon, but we 
all scrambled out of our bunks and prepared for the upcoming 
mission. Mustering up in the HQ compound, we were given the 
mission orders, and with our Cadre squad leader SGT, off we 
headed into the jungle again. 

On our way to our first objective, our SGT assigned each of us 
to take turns with map reading and compass headings. Within an 
hour or so we arrived at our first ambush site of the day. Knowing, 
that by now, the trainees had learned how not to walk into an 
ambush, while setting up the ambush, he split our squad into two 
sections, with six of us in one ambush position adjacent to the other 
six guys, so the enemy patrol could not flank us, and we could quickly 
combine forces when needed to execute the ambush. With the fall 
back position set up, we laid in wait, and about an hour later we 
could hear movement of the enemy patrol advancing on our position. 
Our SGT was totally correct in his assessment of what the trainees 
would do. They split their advancing patrol, with flankers searching 
through the jungle area from both sides. But we were ready for them. 

Once the point man thought the area was clear, the rest of the 
enemy patrol advanced on our position, but they were cautiously and 
slowly moving, trying not to make noise, looking around real hard, 
trying to get a visual on any ambush. Even with their patrol split up 
and covering a lot of area, to no avail, they did not locate us, but this 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 249 



time only three of them wound up walking into the kill zone, and we 
lit them up real good. After unloading two magazines each, we fell 
back to our fallback position and got the hell out of Dodge. We were 
getting pretty good at the ambush thing, and having a ball lighting 
those trainees up every day. 

Being on the delivery end of the aggressor shit was sure a lot 
better than being on the receiving end. A complete reversal of 
fortune compared to the Escape and Evasion course and POW 
compound at Fort Polk. But it was no birthday party either. We were 
all still out in the heavy shit, trainees and aggressors alike. The 
demonic jungle and its inhospitable terrain treated everyone with no 
respect, and equally fucked everyone over without remorse. The jungle 
blatantly laughed out loud in our faces, telling us to fuck off and die. 

During the rest of the morning and the afternoon, we set up two 
more ambush sites, but the enemy patrols were getting smarter each 
time, and it became quite the endeavor to stay concealed in our 
ambush locations. But with the knowledge of our SGT, we completed 
successful ambushes every time. We had to get to our fall back 
positions much faster, and run through the jungle further to escape 
the enemy patrols. We ran like wild pigs, as the enemy patrols were 
now spreading their guys out more to try to encircle us during the 
fire fights. Still, none of us got caught and we all escaped into the 
depths of the jungle every time. 

As a foul-gray, murky dusk penetrated the jungle, we passed 
through an ancient, no longer used banana plantation. There were 
still some standing fence line remnants of barbed wire throughout 
the somewhat open area. We followed a fence line that ended up in a 
tree line of the jungle where there was a small berm of mud and 
vegetation growth. We climbed over the berm and pulled up there, 
totally concealed in the jungle tree line. Our SGT placed us across, 
spread out on line, behind the berm, to be ready for the next ambush. 
We then were able to take a short break, eat some dinner C-Rations, 
which we had placed and carried in socks that were tied to our web 
belts, and had time for a smoke. 

The dusk didn't last long and the pitch black jungle night quickly 
engulfed us with \is foreboding darkness. While lying in wait, the 
SGT dug into his back pack and brought out a dozen training hand 



250 Bud Monaco 



grenades. The training hand grenades were about five inches long 
and about five inches around, made of hard cardboard with 
gunpowder loaded inside of it. The hand grenade had a small plastic 
cap on the top of it that would be pulled loose with a short string 
attached. By pulling the cap and string sharply, it would ignite the 
fuse, and you had four seconds to throw the grenade before it 
exploded. Although these grenades didn't have the full amount of 
gunpowder, and were not made of steel to send shrapnel through the 
air, these grenades could still blow your fingers off just the same if 
not handled properly. Our SGT showed us how they worked and 
handed out one grenade to each of us. He told us not to throw it 
directly at anyone, but to throw it near them or to the side of them. 
The effect would be seen by the enemy patrol's Cadre, and he 
would know if the grenade would have killed any trainees if it 
was a real grenade. 

During our forays into the jungle, I had become pretty 
proficient at being stealthy, and the SGT had taken note of my 
abilities. So he assigned me the task of moving back along the fence 
line to a listening post (LP), and as soon as I made visual contact 
with the approaching enemy, to fall back quickly and quietly 
to the berm and notify him that the enemy was heading 
our way. Wonderful. 

About an hour later, the SGT sent me forward to the LP. 
I hunkered down next to the fence line where there was a large tree 
that I was able to conceal myself behind. Being out thirty yards 
forward of our ambush site, it seemed like I was miles away, as the 
darkness was totally encompassing. I was scared shitless out there in 
the dark on my own, hoping I would be able to find my way back to 
the berm when the time came. The minutes seemed like hours to me 
crouched down next to the tree in the darkness. The jungle noise of 
bugs, birds, and animals became louder the longer I laid in wait. 
Then, the noise abruptly ceased, as the jungle heard the approaching 
patrol, which turned out to be a full company of trainee soldiers, and 
not just a patrol squad or platoon. With movement as such, the jungle 
as its own living entity, would hear the movement before a soldier could. 

It became dead quiet. I was shitting green apples, scared out of 
my combat boots. I heard a little rustling to my front, but couldn't 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 251 



see a damn thing, as I peered around the side of the tree into the 
darkness. No more than a minute later, I heard a voice whispering 
very quietly. It seemed like the whisper was coming from a soldier 
right next to me. Looking to my right from the side of the tree, 
I almost shit a brick! Right there next to me, not three feet away, 
were three trainee soldiers. I said to myself, "Fuck me!" 

How did they sneak up on my position like this? I never heard a 
sound until I heard their hushed whispers. One of them pulled out a 
map and a compass, and one of the others turned on a flashlight that 
had a filter attached to it, only letting out a very small, pencil thin, 
single beam of red, non-reflective light, as they looked over the map. 
They were so close to me that I could read their map and hear them 
breathing. I was so close to them, I could have reached out an 
arms-length and touched them. Yet, here in the darkness, they still 
could not see me, nor were aware that I was right next to them. Holy 
shit, was that a trip. On one hand, I was real proud of myself being so 
goddamned stealthy, and could have killed the three of them in a 
flash with my M-16, but on the other hand, I was pissing my pants 
and scared shitless of them, realizing that I was right there, and that 
they could now easily kill me, or capture me, making me a POW. 
I held my breath, frozen in place, and I could hear my heart 
thumping in my chest. 

Once they figured out where they were, one of them gave the 
order to retreat back to the company, and prepare to move forward 
into the tree line ahead. They were very wary of being ambushed, 
and they were dead nuts on with that thinking. So as they cleared my 
area, I got up from my position and followed the fence line back to 
the berm. As I moved back, my stealthy shit wasn 7 as stealthy as 
I thought, and I heard someone from the enemy patrol say they were 
hearing movement to their front. With my night vision in full swing, 
as I looked back over my shoulder, I could see some soldiers quickly 
moving towards me. I took off and ran like hell back to the berm. 

Just as I was about five yards from where my squad was laying 
in wait behind the berm, my feet got tangle up in some vines and 
I smashed down heavily into the dirt head first. Upon hearing that 
noise, the enemy behind me started firing their weapons as they moved 
forward making a skirmish line of attack. They now knew they were 



252 Bud Monaco 



not alone and reacted promptly. The noise I made falling in front of 
the berm startled one of my own squad guys, and he quickly pulled 
the string on his hand grenade, throwing it right at me. The jagbag 
did exactly what the SGT told us not to fucking do. As I recovered 
from my fall, with my first step, the grenade that was thrown landed 
in front of me and I stepped right on it as it exploded. Boom! That 
motherfucker really exploded with a loud report that raised me up 
right off the ground, and I slammed back into the dirt head first again. 
The grenade didn't hurt me, but I sure felt the shock of its explosion 
through my combat boot and up my leg. It really shocked the living 
shit out of me. As soon as I rose up attempting to climb over the 
berm, our ambush squad opened fire on the approaching enemy with 
M-16 fire, and started winging the other hand grenades at the enemy. 

Bam, Boom, Bam, Boom! The rifle fire from both sides, and the 
grenades from our side, shattered the jungle silence into di frenzy of 
explosions with continuing rifle fire from both sides. The grenade 
explosions and rifle fire was lighting up the jungle darkness like a 
strobe light. There was a half-dozen of us opening up with rifle fire 
on them, but there were sixty of them charging forward, taking cover 
on line, firing their weapons in our direction in a wall of muzzle 
flashes. With the constant rifle flashes, you could now see the high 
number of trainees moving forward in the strobe light effect of the 
muzzle flashes, and there were a lot of them. What a shit fest this had 
quickly become. It was impossible to figure out which soldiers 
from either side would have been killed or wounded when the 
firefight was in full force. 

Once I climbed over the berm, I took up a firing position, pulled 
the string on my grenade, as I sure wanted to throw my own grenade 
into the frenzy, and emptied both of my ammo magazines into the 
night. Holy shit! What a shooting match we were in now. It was 
actually engrossingly entertaining, and even with the fact that this 
could be a real fire-fight with real grenades and bullets, we were 
having a ball. Now everyone was yelling and shooting, and 
somehow over the ear-splitting din of the battle, we heard our SGT 
shouting out orders for us to pull back to our fallback position and 
get the fuck out of there. He didn't have to say it twice as we crawled, 
then bolted upright, and busted ass to get to the fall back position, 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 253 



getting our asses out of there as fast as we could. As I said earlier, it 
was a real ball-buster trying to negotiate through the jungle in the 
dark, not smash into a tree while running madly, trying to follow 
close to the guy in front of you, so as not to get separated from the 
squad, and getting lost with the enemy in pursuit. 

Damn, our squad leader was real good at that shit. He got us out 
of there with no one getting separated, and we made fast headway 
through the jungle without too much distress. Finally, after about 
thirty minutes of a force march, as we bashed our way through the 
jungle vegetation, he gave the order for us to pull up, taking a head 
count to make sure we were all accounted for. We now could rest for 
only five minutes, no smoke break allowed, as any match, lighter or 
lit cigarette could be seen by the enemy patrol. We were 
only allowed to drink some water from our canteens, and were 
quickly on the move. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 255 



Chapter 38 

More Jungle 

''When Everything Sucks. 
Just Embrace The Suck.'' 

About an hour later, we pulled up, and the SGT told us that we 
were heading to a mock-up Viet Cong base camp. Once we 
arrived near the perimeter, we would wait for first light. We would 
spread out with three of us going on a patrol to circle around the 
camp to be on the lookout for any enemy activity. We would regroup 
and enter the camp to search for enemy forces, weapons, food caches, 
and medical supplies. Once we knew the camp was abandoned, we 
would take up positions, setting up a defensive ambush, as the camp 
was also an objective for the trainees to attack and secure. 

The darkness of the jungle started to fade into a creeping, 
fog-shrouded, pre-dawn light, at least what dim light that penetrated 
the triple canopy jungle allowed. We could now, finally, see more 
than two feet in front of us, and the dim light brought a nicer mind 
set, as the dark night faded, making us feel more at ease. We came 
across a small river with banks about four feet high on both sides. 
The river was only about fifteen feet across, about three feet deep 
without much of a current. The banks were wet and steep, and as 
each man engaged the leading bank, he would hand his rifle to the 
man behind him unfil he was in the waist deep water. Then, the man 
holding his rifle would hand it back to him. The soldier would wade 
across the water, negotiate the far bank on his own, and the next 
soldier crossing would hand his rifle up to him before negotiating 
the far bank. There was a medium-sized tree with a reachable 
branch on the top of the far bank that we used to grab hold of to 
pull ourselves up the far bank. 

Once everyone made it across the river, the SGT asked us if we 
had seen anything of interest or danger while negotiating the banks 
and the river. None of us were sure of why he was asking us that, as 
we were the only humans for miles around. Other than us, there was 
nothing moving in the jungle. We all said we had not seen anything. 
He then pointed to the tree we used as a hand hold on the top of the 
bank, telling us to take a good look at it. We all did, but in the dim 



256 Bud Monaco 



light of dawn, none of us could see anything further, wondering 
what the fuck he was talking about. 

The SGT then walks over right next to the tree, and has us all 
gather around him. He then points up to the branch right above the 
branch we were using as a hand hold, and holy fucking shit, right 
there, now clearly visible to all of us, was a gigantic boa constrictor 
snake. Leave it to a Green Beret Snake Eater to be able to locate 
a snake like that in the jungle. 

The boa was coiled around the tree branches, with its multiple 
shades of brown-colored snakeskin camouflaging it well, blending 
in with the brown-colored tree branches, made it pretty much 
unnoticeable to the untrained eye. The boa was about ten feet long, 

and the largest part of its body 
was about sixteen inches in 
circumference. That was one large 
boa not to be fucked with. The boa's 
big head rose up a bit to check us 
out. Its demonic-looking eyes 
watching our every move with 
detached interest, letting us know it 
did not mingle with foul-smelling 
rabble like us, as its forked tongue 
continuously flittered in and out of 
its mouth. It was one huge snake that 
none of us had ever seen the likes of before, blowing us away, 
knowing that we had all come within inches of touching while using 
the lower branch for a hand-hold. In one sense, the giant boa looked 
beautiful, but in another sense, it looked primitive and 
dangerous as hell. That snake was just one of many dangerous 
species of wildlife that the jungle had to offer. 

We continued our march through the jungle for another hour or 
so when the SGT gave us a hand signal to pull up. We had reached 
the outer perimeter area of the Viet Cong village compound. It was 
mid-morning and there was nothing moving. The jungle was deadly 
quiet. Even the bugs and birds had stopped their incessant 
noise during our approach. 

The SGT then directed us to spread out on line, on the ground in 




DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 257 



firing positions, taking cover, and chose three of us to circle the 
compound looking for any enemy activity. When the three guys 
returned twenty minutes later, after circling the compound, the SGT 
gave the order to move forward on line, crossing over some loose 
strands of barbed wire, and entered the village. Not a thing was 
moving, and not a sound was heard. It was a very eerie place to be, 
with that village popping up right in the middle of nowhere 
deep in the god-forsaken jungle. 

The village had about ten bamboo and rough-chopped, wooden 
tree-framed hootches with thatched vegetation walls and roofs. There 
were no doors on any of the hootches, and some of them had cooking 
fireplaces outside, made with circles of rocks surrounding long ago 
burnt ashes from the previous tenants. We were split into two-man 
groups, directed to enter and search each hootch for weapons, ammo, 
and anything of value such as maps, battle plans, or troop strengths 
that the now, long-gone enemy might have left behind. In the search 
of the hootches, we found hidden under straw mattresses, and under 
vegetation or stones in every hootch, Russian made, AK-47 Rifles, 
ammo boxes, a few maps, some sand bags filled with rotting 
rice, and even a Viet Cong flag. 

We collected up all of what we found, bringing the cache to the 
center of the compound. The SGT explained to us that the AK-47s 
were the primary weapon of choice used by the Viet Cong and the 
North Vietnamese Army, which were supplied to the them by the 
Communist Chinese government, which in turn, were supplied to 
them by the fucking Russian Communists. He told us that in combat, 
the maps and any paperwork found in a village like we had just found, 
would be turned over to the Army's S-3 Intelligence section of our 
unit for further use and information on an enemy's battle plans or 
troop strengths. He then told us to pick up what we found, after we 
took a few photos of our bounty with a long forgotten plastic Brownie 
camera that I had stashed in my back pack, and to put everything 
back where we found it, so that the next patrol or the next 
training group would be able to search for it upon arriving 
at the village compound. 

We then were directed to set up a defensive perimeter, circling 
half the village, and to lie in wait for the enemy patrol that was sure 



258 Bud Monaco 



to arrive sooner or later. During the down time while we laid in wait, 
we were given permission to eat some C-Rations. The smoking lamp 
was lit, and we were allowed to smoke. As gruesome as the 
C-Rations had become to us after almost two weeks of eating only 
C-Rations, those cans of food tasted like gourmet food because we 
were so hungry, and our smokes were just wonderful to puff, as the 
smoking lamp had not been turned on for many hours. We also had 
not slept for over thirty-six hours and were beat to shit. There would 
be no sleeping for another six hours at least. Dog-tired, filthy with 
mud and jungle shit saturated down to our bones, we would be real 
glad when the mission was over. 

We laid-in-wait for what seemed like hours, as the dim light of 
day filtering through the jungle canopy started to fade into another 
murky dusk. The SGT had by now designated our fallback position 
on the back side of the village for a quick exit. Before the night set 
in, we heard some movement to our front, and the listening post (LP) 
soldier who was located about twenty yards in front of our perimeter 
came rushing quickly back in a low-crawl to the firing line, telling 
the SGT that he had seen the enemy soldiers approaching 
through the thick jungle vegetation. 

A few minutes later, from our camouflaged, prone fighting 
positions, through the quickly fading light, we saw the point man 
peering through the jungle. Without seeing or hearing anything, he 
gave the signal for the rest of the patrol to move forward. As soon as 
a dozen of the troops came into our sight, the SGT gave the order to 
open fire. We all fired our weapons, emptying two full magazines 
each. Bam, Bam, Bam, Bam! The rifle fire's sharp, cracking sounds, 
once again shattered the jungle silence in a lightning blaze of muzzle 
flashes from our weapons. Again, it was pretty cool, but no one was 
laughing. Upon the SGT's order to fall back, we disengaged 
ourselves from the enemy, which by now had come on line and were 
firing back at us in full force. We got to the fall back point and got the 
hell out of there as fast as we could. 

As we busted through the jungle, it was once more totally dark. 
We stumbled and crashed through the thick vegetation for about thirty 
minutes before the SGT had us pull up, taking another head count. 
All accounted for. He then took a few minutes to check his map 
coordinates and compass heading, and we were again on the march 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 259 



heading back to our base camp. Our mission was finished, but we 
still had a long way to go to get back to camp. 

Hours later, we busted into the clearing of our base camp, 
looking like a bunch of rag-tag, beat-to-shit, filthy dirty soldiers back 
from Hell. We mustered up, and the MSGT again appeared out of the 
darkness like a wraith to debrief the SGT and us about our mission. 
Top said he was very proud of us and would be honored to have any 
of us serve with him in real combat. Then out of the darkness, like 
another wraith appearing out of nowhere, the Green Beret 
commanding officer full bird colonel was standing in front of 
us next to the MSGT. 

The MSGT called us all to attendon, and the CO then told us all 
to stand at ease. He went on to congratulate us on completing a 
successful mission, and that he was very proud of the way we had 
followed orders doing a fine job. That was nice and we were all 
feeling pretty good about it all, but right now we couldn't give a rat's 
ass about that shit. All we wanted to do was get back to our tents, get 
out of our filthy fatigues, wash some of the jungle scum off of our 
bodies, and hit our racks for some much-needed sleep. The MSGT 
told us that we would have the next morning off and we could sleep 
in late. Oh joy, that was sure good to hear. We all quickly did our 
things, hit our racks and no one had any trouble falling into a deep sleep. 

With the following day arriving, after we had slept in most of 
the morning, there would be only two more days of the JOTC 
training session left until the trainees would graduate and be awarded 
their JOTC patch. We wound up with the whole day and night off to 
regroup, clean our gear, weapons, wash out our filthy fadgues and 
underwear, and took baths in Gatun Lake. 

The missions for the remaining two days were more of the same 
with numerous forays into the jungle, setting up day and night 
ambushes. By now we were real tired of that jungle shit. We were 
real anxious to get through those final two days and get back to 
Fort Kobbe. We were all beat to shit, mentally stressed out, and 
physically wounded from all the insect bites, scratches, and cuts all 
over our bodies from crashing into trees, bushes, and all the other 
vegetadon, including having Black Palm jammed under our skin in 
many different places. 

Everyone's feet were blistered, scaled and shriveled from the 



260 Bud Monaco 



constant foot immersion in the water we had to walk through during 
our patrols. Our feet were never totally dried out at any time, 
although we were instructed to dry our feet after missions, sleep 
without socks on, and only put on dry socks at the start of each day. 
All of our fatigues were mostly shot-to-shit by now, torn up and 
raggedy with holes. None of us had any useable underwear left, and 
we were wearing what was left of our fatigue pants without any 
underwear. Just about everyone had some sort of rash or jungle rot 
burning their arm pits, crotches, and assholes. Without having any 
undershorts to wear, our fatigue pants were rubbing against our bare 
balls, adding to the ball-burning discomfort we were all suffering. 
Our socks were somewhat wearable, but pretty much shot-to-shit 
like our fatigues. The black color of our combat boots was worn 
completely off, and the raw, brown leather showed prominently. It 
was really something how quickly the mind, body, and clothes 
deteriorated in the harsh jungle environment. 

But, I'll tell you what. Our M-16 rifles were kept in perfect 
working order, and every weapon looked like it just came out of the 
factory. It was a lot easier to keep the metal and plastic of an M-16 
clean, oiled and in perfect operating order, than it was to keep your 
clothes or bodies clean. Damn, it seemed like we had been out in the 
jungle for months, but it had only been less than fourteen days. The 
jungle was surely one bad motherfucker, and the living entity of the 
jungle offered no quarter to human life at any time. The land 
and environment was owned by the jungle entirely, and we 
were just visiting. 

Sunday, the last day of training and graduation for the trainees, 
and our last day as the aggressor force at JOTC, had finally arrived. 
Definitely, it could not have arrived soon enough. There was still 
some cleaning up left to do, collecfing up any garbage waste, a final 
shit-burning detail, straightening up our tent, resetting all the tent 
poles and tent rope sanctions properly for the next aggressor force 
that would be assigned there. What a trip that had been. We were as 
happy as pigs in shit to be done with the aggressor detail mission. 
We couldn't pack up our gear and get on the truck to take us back to 
Fort Sherman for some hot food, hot showers, clean clothes, and to 
sleep on an actual bunk with a mattress and pillow fast enough. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 261 



We had one more muster formation to deal with, and we would 
be on our way out of this JOTC base camp. The Green Beret MSGT 
and our Green Beret SGT squad leader told us that they were very 
proud of us, and thanked us for doing an outstanding job for the past 
two weeks. They both said that we were the best goddamned 
aggressor force they had ever had assigned to them, wishing us luck 
during our future Army service. 

With that, the order to fall out and mount up was given, 
and without a second's hesitation, we all piled into the back of the 
waiting deuce and a half truck heading back to Fort Sherman. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 263 



Chapter 39 

Rest and Relaxation: R & R: Out Of The Jungle, For Now 

" When The Shit Hits The Proverbial Fan. 

Put Two Pieces Of Bread Together 

And Make A Shit Sandwich." 

Arriving back at Fort Sherman, the first thing we were ordered to 
do was to secure our weapons in the Armorer's vault and we 
headed over to the Supply room. The Supply room staff sergeant 
issued us new fatigues, underwear, socks, and combat boots, as well 
as sets of clean towels, sheets, pillows, and pillow cases. It was so 
cool to get all that new clothing, but we quickly learned, as our old 
trashed stuff had been tailored to fit properly, that all of the new 
clothing would have to be tailored to fit, and paid for by each of us 
out of our own pockets once we got back to Fort Kobbe. We would 
also have to remove our name tags. Army tags, and unit patches from 
the old shit, and have it sewed onto the new stuff. You would either 
have to do the sewing yourself, or have the tailor do it, having to pay 
him for the service. After all the shit we had been through at JOTC, 
now it was going to cost us a few bucks of our own cash to boot! 

Next, we were assigned to a barracks bay where we would be 
staying overnight, and we were expecting to be trucked back to Fort 
Kobbe the next day. We would soon find out to our devastating 
dismay that that would turn out not to be the case. The minute we 
got into the barracks, we all stripped down naked and hit the 
hot showers. What a joy. 

Before the two weeks at JOTC, I would never have thought that 
something as simple as a hot shower could be the most wonderful 
experience in a soldier's life. The hot shower was just fucking 
beautiful. There were only six shower heads, and all twelve of us 
were jammed into the shower area of the latrine at the same time, 
playing grab-ass, pushing, shoving and fighting for position, to get 
under the shower heads that were blasting out the hot water all over 
our filthy beat-up bodies. We all had shit-eating grins on our faces, 
and we loved the moment. It was a great time and we were having a 
ball. What a luxury a simple hot shower could be. 

After the extended, glorious time in the showers, as we were 



264 Bud Monaco 



toweling off, our mortar platoon SGT, now in charge, told us we had 
to remove the tags and patches from our old fatigues, put the old 
fatigues into a trash burn-can outside the barracks, and burn them to 
ashes. Then we could go to the mess hall for our first hot food to eat 
since fourteen days ago. If the hot showers were great, the hot food 
was tremendously blissful. Even the Army chow looked and tasted 
like gourmet food being served at the Conrad Hilton hotel. You would 
have thought that we had not eaten anything for weeks, as we 
hungrily scarfed dov/n the food like wild dogs. We were forking food 
into our mouths like a fucking farmer's combine. Everyone was 
allowed to go back through the chow line for seconds and thirds. 

With our bellies full, sporting new clean fatigues, combat boots, 
all showered and shaved, we were told to muster up in front of our 
barracks. The Green Beret Cadre colonel followed closely by the 
Cadre MSGT as he came out of the HQ building approaching our 
formation. Our SGT hollered out, "Detail, Attention!" and we all 
quickly snapped to attention. The colonel told us to stand at ease, 
proceeding to tell us what an outstanding job we had done as the 
aggressor force during the past two weeks of JOTC. He expressed 
his sincere appreciation for our outstanding performance 
while serving as an aggressor force. 

He continued to say, that during that time, he knew our duties 
were many and varied, and the spirit and professionalism we all 
demonstrated reflected credit upon ourselves, our unit, and the United 
States Army. He further told us we would all receive a letter of 
appreciation signed by him that would become a permanent part of 
our Army 201 File. It was real nice to hear, and no 
dinky-shit, coming from a field grade combat veteran officer 
with the high rank he held. 

Well, that was just dandy, but we were wishing for him to just 
shut up and dismiss us so we could get back in the barracks and 
settle in for the rest of the day and night. The only thing on our minds 
was climbing into the back of the truck that would take us back to 
Fort Kobbe the next day. To our great and unfathomable dismay, that 
would not be in the cards. We were in for a shocking surprise. 

The colonel then said to us, "I have taken upon myself to 
personally call your battalion and company commanders back at Fort 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 265 



Kobbe, and requested that all of you be reassigned to JOTC for the 
next two weeks of the upcoming jungle warfare school to be my 
aggressor force again. Seeing that you all showed the command and 
cadre here at JOTC such outstanding performance in carrying out 
your duties, I would personally like to have you all back under my 
command for two more weeks. I find this to be an honor for me to 
have such a dedicated detail of soldiers to be part of our continuing 
operations here at JOTC. I look forward to serving with all of you 
for this extended period of time." 

Holy fucking shit! Geeezzzusss fucking christ almighty! We 
could not believe what we were hearing. Our jaws dropped to our 
knees and our hearts climbed up into our throats. We were in utter 
shock and dismay. Another two weeks of stomping around in the 
jungle just blew our fucking minds. Thinking about going back into 
the shit was an absolute mind-fucking. And that career lifer thought 
he was doing us a favor, and we would appreciate the new orders. He 
couldn't be farther from the truth of what we were thinking than the 
fucking moon! I thought I was going to drop down fainting from the 
shock of that totally fucked-up situation. But Army orders were 
orders, and not one swinging dick had a second choice to choose 
from. We were totally and royally fucked, and that was that. 
Marvelous. Just fucking marvelous! 

With that, the MSGT called the formation to attention, the 
colonel saluted us all and sharply walked away. The Cadre MSGT 
tells us that we would have the next two days off, and we would be 
given overnight passes to go into town, which was the city of Colon, 
located on the Atlantic side of the Canal, to have some drinks and 
enjoy ourselves. Big fucking deal. But it was the best thing that was 
offered to us. Right before the MSGT is done with us he says, "I've 
made arrangements with the Fort Sherman barber, and you will all 
march over there right now, and everyone will get a fresh haircut. We 
can't have all of you looking like refugees from a jungle boogie dance. 
I expect all your haircuts to be high and tight before you are allowed 
off base, and if anyone returns with a haircut not up to my 
standards, the shit-burning detail will be the least of shit details 
you will have to worry about." 

With some slight, sideways looks at each other, we had to 



266 Bud Monaco 



wonder what could be worse than the shit-burning detail. But one 
look at that stract, bull-necked, Green Beret Snake Eater, with a 
rock-squared, jutting jaw, and we knew whatever it was would not be 
pretty. Ain't that a bitch or what? We were given the order to fall out, 
and we all dejectedly, with forlorn looks on our faces, headed over to 
the barber shop, got our haircuts, and headed back to the barracks to 
bitch to the high heavens. We would weep and moan for the rest of 
the night about the sorry state of affairs that we had to deal with. 
What another shit-storm we were heading into again. We were all 
firmly entrenched and embedded as members of the 'forlorn hope 
club,' and we didn't even have to enroll. Fuck us. Fuck us twice! Just 
another day in the Army. BOHICA strikes again! 

The next afternoon, we fell out into formation, and one of the 
Green Beret SGTs told us that a truck would arrive at our barracks at 
3:00 p.m. to take us into the city of Colon for our rest and relaxation 
(R & R). By most soldiers, R & R was called I & I. Intoxication and 
intercourse. We would not be allowed to wear civilian clothes, but 
that wasn't a problem, as none of us had any civilian clothes to wear 
anyway. He then told us we would be able to hang out in Colon until 
9:00 p.m., and the truck would return to take us back to base. Anyone 
not making the truck ride back would be charged with missing 
a formation and reprimanded. 

He then explained a few things and Army regulations about 
soldiers visiting Colon. One was, Colon was not like Panama City, 
and it was not a safe place to be at night. The locals in Colon were 
even less tolerant of American military personnel than the locals in 
Panama City, and were known to mug American GIs at the slightest 
moment of a GI being caught unaware. We were to stay together, and 
no one was to wander off alone. 

Two was, we were not to engage any prostitutes, and anyone 
getting caught by the MPs patrolling the streets, would be 
arrested, spend the night in the Army stockade, and be given an 
Article 15 without hesitation. 

Three was, we would be allowed to drink some booze, but 
anyone over-indulging and getting shit- faced drunk would be quickly 
reprimanded. 

What the fuck was all this? If you can't stay out late, can't bang 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 267 



any whores, and can't get shit-faced drunk, what the fuck was there 
to do? Well, that was the way it was. We could take it or leave it, 
there were no second choices. We would all wind up going into 
Colon, as it had to be something better and different than where we 
had been out in the jungle for the past two weeks. If we didn't 
like those rules, we would just have to stay in the barracks, sit 
around and pull our pricks. 

3:00 p.m. rolled around, we all fell out of the barracks and piled 
into a deuce and a half truck, as the ride to Colon began. Although 
Fort Sherman was just three miles across the Bay of Limon from 
Colon, the only way to get there in a vehicle was to drive south down 
the Bay of Limon coastline about seven miles to the Gatun Lock 
crossing location, and then drive about another seven miles north, to 
reach Colon and the much smaller adjacent city of Cristobal. 

The truck driver dropped us off at a parking lot location near the 
city center of Colon. One look at the surroundings and we knew right 
away that the city was not in very good shape. If Panama City was 
the asshole of the world, Colon was the connecting, whole 
fucking rectum, right up the ass. 

In previous years, dating back to the 1940's and 1950's, the city 
of Colon was once a beautiful, thriving, and well-populated city. It 
was the major hub of tourism, transportation, docks, shipyards, and 
Panama Canal operations in Central America. With the growth, 
major development, advancement, building, and financial gains of 
Panama City, just about everything in Colon went right into the 
toilet, leaving it on its own to slowly digress into oblivion. 

The driver told us where the local scene for GIs was located a 
block or so further up the street, and we headed that way. Although it 
was broad daylight and 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon. Colon was like a 
ghost town. There was hardly any traffic on the decrepit streets, with 
very few locals walking around. All the buildings were in disrepair, 
needing brick work, paint, and a lot of other maintenance, that didn't 
look like it was going to happen anytime soon. All the store fronts 
were closed up with beat up, filthy gray, black-colored, covered with 
graffiti, rolling shutters pulled tightly down to the sidewalks, locked 
securely with iron bars. As if there was anything worthwhile to steal. 
Ha, fat chance of that. 



268 Bud Monaco 



The streets were littered with garbage, and mixed in with 
Atlantic Ocean salt air, ihe putrid-smelling sewer water continuously 
ran along the curbs and pot-holed streets that had not been repaired 
in years. What a shit-hole that once-thriving city had become. 

We arrived at the two to three block entertainment location, and 
it wasn't in any better shape than the few blocks we had just passed 
through. These few blocks were somewhat cleaner, and there was 
some light traffic, mostly hootch taxi cabs and people walking along 
the street. Most of the people walking around were GIs from Fort 
Sherman, Fort Gulic, Fort Randolph, Fort Davis, and American 
Canal Zone workers, with very few locals visible. 

The strip of bars, small restaurants, cat-and-dog taco or hot dog 
joints, lined both sides of the streets. They all had ancient neon signs 
hanging over the sidewalks or in the windows advertising their 
trade, but most of the signs were busted-up and didn't look like 
they worked at all. 

We picked out a juke joint about half way down the strip and 
sauntered inside. To our surprise, the joint was jammed with GIs 
drinking and partying. There were half-naked B-girls dancing on the 
bar, gyrating their bodies to the music blasting out over the sound 
system. And, guess what song was playing? Goddamned right, 
'Sookie, Sookie, Sookie Sue! ' Geeezzzusss fucking christ, was that 
the only song any of those hootches ever played in every juke joint in 
Panama? We were all laughing our asses off about the song, found an 
empty booth to sit at, and within a second or two, there was a 
half-naked waitress, with her tits hanging out of her blouse, wearing 
five inch fuck-me pumps, and a mini-skirt that was showing the cheeks 
of her ass, asking us what we wanted to drink. Damn, we were all 
speechless with our mouths hanging open. She was a beautiful sight 
for sore eyes. We had not seen a woman for over two weeks, and that 
little lady was sure fine to look at. Anyone of us could have banged 
her right there on the table, as with just a litde breeze, our dicks 
could get hard. Seeing her standing right in front of us with 
all her flesh hanging out right up close, everyone's dick 
was already getting hard. 

We ordered the proverbial rum and cola, and she was back at 
our booth within minutes serving up the booze. We pounded down 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 269 



the first round of drinks so fast in one or two gulps and were drinking 
Hke we owned stock in a booze factory, that she had not even left the 
table when we ordered another round. With the music blasting out, 
the B-girls gyrating half-naked on the bar, we all started thinking 
about getting laid, and that became the main topic of discussion. But 
upon further review, it was brought into the conversation about what 
we were told not to do involving hookers back at the fort. Upon even 
further review, it came to mind that none of us had much money to 
spend on a hooker. We probably didn't have a hundred dollars 
between the dozen of us, and what dough we had, we would need to 
buy more booze and some food before our time in Colon was up. 
None of us would be doing any fucking of whores during our short 
stay in Colon. That was pretty evident to all of us. 

We continued to have some more drinks, spending a couple of 
hours hanging out in the juke joint, just shooting the breeze and 
talking shit. We met a few other GIs, and talked to them about some 
Army stuff, like where they were from, and what else there was to do 
in that rat hole of a city. They assured us that this was as good as it 
gets in Colon, and that there were numerous patrols of MPs that were 
not to be challenged or fucked with. They told us the MPs hated this 
duty station, and were always pissed off about being here, just 
looking to bust some heads at the slightest provocation or deviation 
from the Army regulations. 

We hung out in the bar for a while longer, and then decided to 
check out a another bar to look at some different women. We headed 
out, and just a few doors down, we entered another juke joint. Same 
thing. Loaded with more GIs, half-naked B-girls dancing on the bar, 
and, the same goddamned song, 'Sookie, Sookie, Sookie Sue,' 
blasting out over the sound system. We settled into another booth, 
the ubiquitous, half-naked waitress was immediately at our table, 
and we ordered a round of drinks. 

A few minutes later, one of the B-girls, who was real fine 
looking with her tits hanging half-way out of her blouse, and her ass 
cheeks showing from under her mini-skirt, approached our booth, 
and just like in Panama City, she came right to the point and asked 
us, "Hey, GIs, you want me to sucky fucky you?" One of the guys 
told her we couldn't leave the bar, and get caught going to a hotel 



270 Bud Monaco 



with her, because it was against Army regulations, and there were 
MPs patrolling all over the streets. She responded and said, "No 
fucking sweat, GIs. No MPs in here." Then the guy said that we 
didn't have much money on us. She said, "Only twenty bucks for 
sucky fucky, and we can do it right here in the toilet." He said we 
didn't have enough dough for all of us, and asked how much for just 
a blow job. She said, "Ten dollar for just sucky." He said that was too 
much and she quickly responded, "OK, I sucky you for five dollar." 
Damn, what a bargain that was hard to pass up. So, we all checked 
our cash reserves, and we figured we could all afford to get a blow 
job for five bucks. What the hell. As long as we didn't get caught. 
Fuck the Army regulations. We all needed some sex, and damn the 
torpedoes, we were going to get blow jobs one way or another. 

One by one, we stealthfully cruised into the men's room toilet 
with her, and wow, what a shit-hole it was, with the nefarious, 
common to all Panama bars, open-hole sewer pipe in the floor to shit 
in, totally encrusted with old shit and puke, without a single shred of 
toilet paper in sight. The formerly, once white, porcelain urinal had 
turned piss yellow from years of use and never being cleaned. The 
place also reeked to the high heavens of shit, piss, and puke, but that 
didn't matter a bit right now. After dealing with the gagging smell of 
the shit-burning details out in the bush, it was a trivial thing to even 
consider. Didn't make it smell any better though. 

A couple of guys went first, and then I took my turn. She first 
asked for the five bucks, quickly started to unbutton my fatigue pants, 
did the deed, and it was over in a flash. That was sweet, fast or not, 
even in that brutal shit house, it was absolutely great, as I buttoned 
up my pants and I was out of there. The rest of the guys followed 
suit, and we were really on our high horse now, after getting some 
booze in us, and getting blow jobs all around. It was great, and we 
were now really having a ball, forgetting about all the shit we had 
been through out in the jungle, and not thinking about the shit we 
would be having the deal with again out in the jungle real soon. After 
about another hour or so, we were all pretty hungry by now, and 
decided to bust a move out of the juke joint to find some food to eat. 

We ambled out of the joint, and a few doors further down the 
strip, we found a small hootch restaurant, went in and ordered some 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 271 



food. The joint was geared for serving GIs. There were hamburgers 
and french fries available, so that was what everyone ordered, and 
we wolfed down our food. Now it was getting dark outside, almost 
8:00 p.m., and time to start heading back to our pick-up point to 
meet the truck to take us back to Fort Sherman. 

Before we went back to the pick-up point, we stopped into a 
third juke joint for one last rum and cola to add to our present buzz 
for the ride back to the base. And I'll be damned, you know. The 
same goddamned song was blasting out over the sound system. 
'Sookie, Sookie, Sookie Sue' was cranking out and the B-girls were 
dancing on the bar gyrating to the music. I sure hope 'Steppenwolf ' 
was collecting their publishing royalties. I'm sure they would have 
made a boatload of retirement dough just from their song being played 
constantly in every fucking bar throughout the country of Panama. 
But then again, I'd suspect it would be a real fucking nightmare for 
BMI or ASC AP to enforce any music licensing laws down in that far 
away, decadent world of Central America. What a fucking trip. 

We pounded down the rest of our drinks, made our way out of 
the juke joint, and down the unlit, desolate streets. If Colon looked 
like a ghost town in the daylight, it looked as foreboding as the jungle 
in the moonless, dark night, with the ramshackle buildings looming 
over us as we passed them by. Not a single street light could be seen, 
and not a single light was showing from any of the buildings. 
Nothing was moving on that street except us. Nothing. Not a car, not 
a person, not one goddamned thing. All around, a pretty eerie place. 
Not that we were afraid of anything, or anyone. We were bad-ass 
motherfucking soldiers, boozed up, on high alert, and ready to take 
on any challenge that might arise in a heartbeat. Colon might 
be a dangerous place, but we were just as dangerous, and 
nobody to fuck with either. 

The truck was already at the pick-up point waiting for us when 
we got there right at 9:00 p.m.. We climbed into the bed of the truck 
and were on our way back to Fort Sherman for the night. With the 
limited possibilities we had, we took full advantage of them, with no 
remorse, and even less social concerns or consideration. We got what 
we needed to satisfy us for the present time, loving every minute of it. 

Back at Fort Sherman, we bedded down for the night. The 



272 Bud Monaco 



following day, without much to do, we just hung around the 
barracks, and continued our rehabilitation from our excursions out 
in the jungle, tending to our aliments. We were all quickly 
recovering and healing from the numerous scratches, cuts, 
immersion feet, and still picking Black Palm out of our skin. With 
plenty of soap cleaning, salves and powders acquired from the 
medics, most of our ailments and immersion feet problems were on 
the mend. With continuing applications of skin salves acquired from 
the medics, our crotch rot was also dissipating rapidly, giving us 
some greatly appreciated relief. 

We had the option of going back to Colon that afternoon, but 
now with very limited dough in our pockets, and knowing what 
Colon was all about, we decided to just lay low, get some rest, and 
kill off the rest of the day and night, mentally preparing for our trek 
back into the jungle the next day. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 273 



Chapter 40 

Here We Go Again: Back Into The Shit! 

''When Army Shit Becomes Unbearable. 

That 's Just Tough Shit. 

Soldier On. 

That 's An Order! " 

First call in the morning came much too soon. We were all up, out 
of our racks, dressed, and had mess call before 6:00 a.m. Soon 
after mess call, we put on our combat gear, packed up our duffle 
bags, turned in our bedding to the supply sergeant, signed our 
weapons out of the Armorer's vault, mustered up in formation, 
dejectedly hopped into the waiting deuce and a half truck, and were 
back on our way to the JOTC Base Camp. 

Arriving at the base camp, we re-reacquired our aggressor tent, 
dropped off our duffle bags and mustered up in the HQ area of the 
compound. The Green Beret Cadre came out of the HQ's tent to greet 
us. The CO, MSGT, and our previous squad leader, told us they were 
glad to have us back with them. Oh, joy. They were glad and we were 
sad. Very sad. The MSGT told us that the training for the day was 
already in operation out in the field, and that our first mission would 
not be assigned until the following morning. He instructed us to 
acquire our water and food rations, square away our tent and gear, 
and said he would see us in formation first thing in the morning to 
assign us our next mission. That was a nice relief, as we would not 
have to be out humping in the jungle for another day. It being 
Wednesday, that left us with only eleven days that we would have 
to be busting our asses out in the jungle. 

We mostly just dicked around the rest of the day, cleaned our 
weapons, took a swim in Gatun Lake, squared away our gear, and 
the night came down quickly, as we all bedded down to get a good 
night's sleep to be ready for the long day ahead of us. We would 
not be getting much sleep for the following eleven days. 
We were damn well sure of that. 

First call belligerently roused us out of our racks before first 
light. We quickly dressed, gathered up our gear and weapons, and 
mustered up in front of the HQ's tent. The MSGT met us there 



274 Bud Monaco 



giving us our mission orders for the day. Most of the missions were 
more of the same ambushes, so without describing and repeating the 
same missions over again, I'll continue with some of the highlights 
of the following eleven days. There were some real beauties that 
would be absolutely unforgettable. One in particular would 
be life-altering for me. 

After making our way into the jungle to set up our first ambush, 
our squad leader had us spread out and hunker down in our ambush 
location. He then had us gather around him, and he explained a few 
new twists that we would be dealing with over the following days 
and nights. First off, we would now be learning the tools of the trade 
of using booby traps and trip wires that we would learn how to set up 
and initiate upon contact with the enemy. He explained that normally, 
during an ambush patrol, we would not use trip flares, as doing so 
would alert the enemy to our presence. But in that case, using those 
tactics would be a training exercise both for us to learn how to set 
them up, and for the trainees to learn how to look for and locate 
trip wires and booby traps. 

He told us that the JOTC session was a very unique session, and 
that the enemy force would not be American soldiers. During the 
session, we would be facing off against two full combat companies 
of the Army of the Republic of South Vietnam (ARVNs), who were 
shipped in from Vietnam to learn how to fight a war the way the U. S. 
Army operated. In the long run, it was planned out for the ARVNs to 
take over the war in Vietnam with their own combat forces, as America 
wanted to pass the torch to them to fight their own war. Ha, yeah 
right, fight their own war. We all know how well that turned out. 

Later during our tour, we learned that overall, the ARVNs were 
just about totally useless in armed combat in Vietnam. Most of them 
didn't give a rat's ass about the war, whether or not they lived in a 
democracy or under communist rule. Many of them were 
just indigenous farmers who didn't know squat about politics 
and cared even less. 

But that group of ARVNs were not regular ARVNs. They were 
a very select group of ARVN Rangers who were well trained in the 
art of jungle warfare, and had been fighting in Vietnam for many 
years. The war in their country had only two possible outcomes for 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 275 



them. Victory or death. They were some tough, well-trained, 
battled-hardened, bad-ass motherfuckers. They were no one to fuck 
with, and they would prove that to us over the following days. 

With that information, we would have to be stealthier, move 
through the jungle faster, quieter, and keep our minds totally focused 
at all times. Our SGT made this completely known for all of us to 
carry out and follow his orders by the book, without hesitation. Not 
following his orders to the letter, anyone of us could be captured by 
the enemy and become a POW, and that was totally unacceptable. 
You would be in a world of shit if you became a POW, as I surely 
knew first hand from my previous experience in AIT at Fort Polk, 
which now seemed like a lifetime ago. 

The first ambush went off without a hitch. The ARVN point 
man approached our area, looked around carefully, thinking the area 
was clear, but we were camouflaged and concealed very well, and he 
walked his squad right into our killing zone. We proceeded to light 
them up real good. As we moved out of the ambush location, the 
ARVNs were determined to catch up with us, and continued to chase 
us through the jungle for more than a thousand yards. Their chase 
was to no avail. They had to break off their chase and regroup, as we 
headed for our next ambush objective. 

During the rest of the day we executed two more successful 
ambushes, and our SGT led us back to the base camp. We continued 
with the same routines the following two days, and the ARVNs were 
getting really pissed off at us, but we were having a ball. Even 
getting beat to shit, sweating our asses off, always soaking wet to the 
bone tramping through the jungle, we were feeling pretty good about 
ourselves, and no one had yet to be captured. But, that was not due to 
any slacking or major effort from the ARVNs. They tried their best to 
catch us, and had us running like wild dogs through the jungle 
following every ambush. Even with the ARVNs sending out flankers 
and quickly responding to the ambushes, we were still beating the 
pants off of them. I guess we were getting pretty good at that shit 
from either learning how to do it right, or having iht fear of god in 
us, making sure none of us got captured. 

The following day we headed out for another ambush mission, 
but we would have another mission that would test our stealth to 



276 Bud Monaco 



another level. After two ambush missions, as the continuing, burning 
sun and heat of the tropics was starting to fade into a gray dusk, the 
SGT had us gather around, and gave us instructions on the next 
mission, which would be a real doozey. 

We would approach the outside of the perimeter of the ARVN's 
base camp compound. We would stay concealed in the jungle until 
dark, and then we would sneak up, stealthily so as not to get caught, 
and enter the compound, by low-crawling about a hundred yards 
through some low-lying jungle brush, and through some 
low-cut elephant grass. 

Before we arrived at the jungle tree line surrounding the ARVNs 
base camp, we exited the jungle area we were in, and had moved 
across a large area of open ground that had once been a banana 
plantation many years ago. The area was a large, cleared out meadow 
that once had banana trees planted in it, which were all gone by now 
with just a few stumps visible. It also had numerous water canals 
dug out, winding across the open meadow for irrigation. The water 
canals were about six feet across, with three-foot high wet and muddy 
banks on either side. The water was a foot or two deep in some places, 
but in other places the water was barely running, and the canal 
bottom and banks had a black, stinking, quicksand like, mucky mud 
that had to be negotiated. To stay out of the mud, we would have to 
jump across the six foot space between the banks by taking 
a running start, and hurling ourselves over the banks. That was not so 
easy to do with all our gear on, and some of the guys wound up 
landing on the far bank in the mud. 

As I had become pretty good at being stealthy, myself and two 
other guys were chosen to low-crawl the distance to the base camp 
perimeter and enter the base camp, while the other guys would lay in 
wait in the tree line to give us covering fire upon our retreat, 
once we completed the mission. The SGT was sure we would 
be counter-attacked and aggressively pursued by the ARVNs once 
we executed the sapper attack. 

The mission was for the three of us sappers to approach the 
base camp perimeter. Two of the guys would wait at the edge of the 
perimeter, as I would locate the ARVNs Water Buffalo, that was their 
only source of fresh water, and blow it up with a hand grenade. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 277 



It would really piss the ARVNs off real good, and cause them a couple 
days of grief not having fresh water. Once the water tank was blown 
in a live simulation, their water supply would be compromised, and 
they would have to do without fresh water for a day or two. The 
ARVNs would be given negative reports by the Cadre. They could 
do without the water, but they needed positive and good reports. The 
training for them wasn't about getting the pretty blue JOTC patch 
awarded. It was about life or death. Once they returned to Vietnam, 
the pretty blue and white JOTC patch wouldn't mean jack 
shit back in Southeast Asia. 

Once the darkness and the jungle night came down, the three of 
us started our low-crawl, made it to the perimeter undetected, and 
I located the Water Buffalo. There was a faint moonlight giving way, 
making it a bit easier to negotiate to the objective, but it was still 
pretty much a pitch-black night with a slate gray sky, and my eyes 
had adjusted to my night vision helping me to see where I was going. 
But, the ARVNs could see better also. 

I then low-crawled on my stomach through the shit, about twenty 
yards into the compound where the water tank was located. I made 
visual contact of many ARVNs that were present on guard duty or 
moving around the compound, but I was not detected. I crawled 
underneath the tank and laid perfectly still for a few moments. I heard 
some movement nearby, and to my surprise, two of the ARVNs 
walked right up to the water tank and started to draw some 
water from the spigot. 

Both pairs of their boots were within my arm's reach, and 
I could have reached out and polished them. My heart was beating so 
hard in my chest I was scared shitless that they would be able to hear 
it, as the sweat was pouring down from my head into my eyes. I laid 
perfectly still, taking silent, short breaths, so they could not hear my 
breathing, listening to them quietly talk to each other in Vietnamese, 
which of course, I couldn't understand a single word. Thankfully, 
they finished drawing their water and walked away. 

Waiting a minute, to be sure I was still undetected, I securely 
connected the training hand grenade with some thin trip wire I had 
carried with me to the undercarriage of the tank frame, attached more 
thin, trip wire to the hand grenade firing pull string, and as 



278 Bud Monaco 



I low-crawled out from under the water tank, I kept unraveling the 
wire until I reached the location of the other two guys at the edge of 
the base camp perimeter. I was shaking in my boots by the time 
I reached the perimeter, but I was real proud of myself covering 
all that ground undetected. 

Laying low in the tree line, the three of us made sure we knew 
our egress direction back to the rest of the squad, and I gave a good 
yank on the wire connected to the hand grenade, and Boom! It 
exploded with a resounding blast that shattered the silence of the 
base camp and the jungle night. Seemed to be a lot of jungle silence 
shattering going on all the time. Holy shit, was that cool and so 
goddamned exciting. Within seconds after the blast, the base camp 
came alive with ARVNs scrambling around in mass confusion, 
trying to figure out what was going on, shouting out orders, and some 
of them were indiscriminately firing their weapons in all directions. 

The three of us mounted up in a flash, broke into a full run to 
get back to the squad, getting us the hell out of there as fast as we 
could. Finding the rest of the squad waiting for us, the 
SGT gave us the order to move out on the double, and we did 
so without hesitation. 

As we scrambled through the jungle, reaching the near side of 
the meadow, we could hear the ARVNs continue to fire their 
weapons. They now realized and figured out what had happened, 
where it had come from, and were now giving chase. They really 
wanted to catch us real bad, and us and them were moving at quick 
double-time, busting our way through the dark jungle into the meadow. 
We were laughing our asses off, knowing that we had pulled off the 
first part of the mission successfully, but the laughter didn't last long, 
once we started running across the meadow, where they would be 
able to see us, and continue their chase to try to catch us. We were 
having none of that catching-us-shit happen to us. We were 
really hauling-ass across the meadow, jumping over the water 
canals like gazelles. 

After jumping over the first two or three water canals, 
following the guy in front of me, I tried to jump over the next one, 
but I didn't get good traction on the wet ground, and my jump had 
me fall short of the far bank. I came down hard with a squishing 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 279 



sound, feet first, into the edge of the water, and immediately sunk 
into the muck up to my balls. I fell forward, with my arms outstretched, 
holding onto my M-16 with both hands. My M-16, hands and arms, 
plowed into the muck past my elbows, and plopped my head into the 
muck face first. Fuck me. I was totally fucked. I had the muck jammed 
into my mouth, eyes, and nose, and could hardly breathe. I could 
hardly move in the sucking muck, but I was able to get my face, 
arms, and my M-16 free. But, I was still stuck up to my balls in the 
muck, and could hardly move my legs to pull them free. I screamed 
out at the guy in front of me, "I'm stuck. Don't you leave me here, 
you motherfucker! Get back here and help me get out of this shit," 
as I started to sink further into the muck. 

One of my buddies, a bro crew pal from Tennessee, was quickly 
standing over me on the top of the bank. I reached out to him with 
my M- 1 6 extended, and he grabbed hold of the barrel, starting to pull 
me free. He was laughing his ass off, but it sure wasn't funny to me. 
The muck was damn near sucking my combat boots right off my 
feet, but as my buddy started to pull on my rifle, my legs and feet 
started to break free. Once my legs and feet broke free of the muck, 
I clambered up the side of the bank on my hands and knees onto 
solid ground, completely covered in the black muck from head to 
toe, and stinking to the high heavens. It was like the scene in Clint 
Eastwood's 1970 movie, ''Kelly's Heroes^ when the outhouse was 
blown up in the town of Nancy, France, and covered SSGT Crap 
game, played by Don Rickles, and PVT Willard, played by 
Dean Stanton, in the shit from the outhouse. 

Without turning back to look, I knew the ARVNs were closing 
in and somehow found a way to put my running into another gear, 
moving faster than I ever figured I could move under the 
circumstances. We kept running across the rest of the meadow into 
the far tree line, where the rest of the squad was waiting, and 
continued to run through the jungle with the ARVNs in close pursuit, 
firing their weapons in our direction. Eventually, we put enough 
distance between us and them, and they finally broke off the pursuit. 

After we hustled for about another two hundred yards or more, 
we finally pulled up to take a head count and regroup. All present 
and accounted for. No one got captured. Now, all we had to do was 



280 Bud Monaco 



avoid any ARVN patrols, and get back to our JOTC base camp. After 
about another two hours of humping through the jungle, we reached 
our base camp, and were finally safe for the night. Nobody wanted to 
be in front or behind me because the smell of the muck shit I was 
covered in didn't dissipate as it dried one bit. The stink actually got 
worse. But someone had to walk directly in front and behind me, or 
they'd get lost in the pitch-black night in the jungle. They all 
thought it was so fucking hilarious before, but those two guys 
weren't laughing now. 

Holy fucking shit\ What a trip that mission turned out to be. 
We were beat to shit, soaking wet, covered with mud, and completely 
blown out. We had a short formation, the squad leader gave a 
debriefing to the MSGT, and they both congratulated us on a job 
well done. The MSGT had already heard about our sapper mission, 
and told us that the ARVNs were in a pissed-off-frenzy, taking a load 
of shit, losing points from the JOTC Cadre for letting their guard 
down, and, having their Water Buffalo blown up. We now had to be 
even more careful with our contact with the ARVNs. If they weren't 
before, they were now on a big time mission to get even with us and 
were hell bent on capturing us at any cost. 

It was now almost midnight. We headed back to our tent, 
secured our weapons, stripped off our filthy fafigues, combat gear, 
boots and underwear, and in the pitch-black night, naked, climbed 
down the slope into Gatun Lake for an absolutely refreshing bath in 
the dark, cold water. We also dunked, washed and wrung out our 
filthy fafigues. It was great, cold water or not, and we languished in 
the water for quite some fime before climbing back up the slope to 
our tent. Putting on clean underwear, and quickly cleaning our 
weapons, we hit our racks real fast, highly exhausted, and were sound 
asleep within minutes, hopefully to dream about hooking up with 
prosfitutes in Panama City, and not dream about the brutal fime 
we had been through in the jungle that day. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 281 

Chapter 41 

The Raging River Of Fear and Lost In The Jungle 

''You Can Never Know What Strengths You Have. 

You Can Never Know What Accomplishments You Can Do. 

You Only Find Out One Way. 

You Must Overcome Your Fears. 

By Challenging Yourself With The Will To Survive." 

"If A Tree Falls In The Jungle And No One Hears It, 

Does It Make Any Sound? 

If You Scream In The Jungle And No One Hears You, 

Do You Just Keep Screaming?" 

Monday morning rolled around, and now we only had seven 
more days to go. We were counting the days like shortimers 
looking forward to putting it behind us, get the fuck out of that jungle 
shit, and back to Fort Kobbe. The following few days were most 

of the same. First calls 
before daybreak, get 
ready, muster up, get 
our mission for the day, 
hump through the 
jungle, execute more 
ambushes, and hump 
back to the base camp. 
One of the next missions we executed was on the banks of the 
Rio Chagres River, pronounced, Sha-griss, and more commonly 
called, the Chargers River by the GIs. The Chagres rampantly ran 
through the JOTC's area of operation with wild abandon. The Chagres 
was no small creek. It was a major river artery, running from the 
Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea into Panama and the Canal Zone 
from the north, through the Darien jungle, becoming part of Gatun 
Lake, and continued its path south, across the Canal lanes. It then 
took a northerly path all the way to Madden Dam. 

The flow of the Chagres was changed by the Army Corps of 
Engineers to flood the lower lying jungle areas, creating Gatun Lake 
during the original excavation and dredging of the canal. With the 




282 Bud Monaco 



later construction of Madden Dam, it now flowed mainly south to 
north. The Army Corps of Engineers had also built a smaller dam, 
Gatun Dam, which also aided in the creation of Gatun Lake, and was 
a major factor in controlling the flow of the Chagres. 

Henry Morgan, The Pirate,' used the Chagres River to attack 
Panama City in 1671, and the river was first explored by Hernando 
de la Serna in 1527. The river was also the chief source of water 
for the Panama Canal. 

The Rio Chagres was no Mississippi River or Amazon River in 
terms of overall width and depth, but it was still a formidable 
waterway that was just as dangerous, with a maximum depth of forty 
feet and one to two-hundred feet wide. It was a fast-flowing river, 
having steep muddy banks, with the jungle tree lines growing right 
up to its banks. At other locations, the river cut through solid rock 
formations that rose dozens of feet above the fast-flowing water 
below. There were also numerous rapids that were located 
throughout the river. You could never step in the same place of the 
Chagres River twice, or any river for that matter, because the river 
was always moving. 

Arriving at a point along the river on the top of a solid rock 
formation, after a two hour trek through the jungle, we met up with 
two other Green Beret Cadre sergeants who were already at the 
location. The river location was for training how to properly execute 
a river-crossing without boats. There were two ropes, stretched across 
the width of the river, secured firmly to trees on both banks. The 
procedure to execute a river crossing was for soldiers to traverse across 
the ropes, hanging upside-down, with their arms and legs clinging to 
the ropes, and going hand-over-hand until reaching the far side of 
the river. It had to be done carrying full back packs and weapons. 

Once a soldier made it to the other side, he would then inflate 
his air mattress, which every soldier carried in his back pack, and 
then enter the river on the far bank using the air mattress for a 
floatation device, and paddle back across the river using his arms 
and legs as paddles to complete the mission. Every soldier also had 
to wear a flotation life jacket firmly secured with straps across his 
chest and back, just in case his air mattress failed, prevenUng him 
from drowning in the river. Wearing all his gear and combat boots, 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 283 



without a flotation device, a soldier would surely sink into the depths 
of the river and drown easily. 

The SGT told us the ARVN trainees would be doing a river 
crossing later in a few hours upon their arrival at that location. He 
then said to us, "In the meantime, we are going to train you 
aggressors how to execute a river-crossing. As long as you're here, 
we can utilize this down time to train you properly so you will know 
how to do this if it ever becomes necessary." Fuck us! It did not look 
like an easy task to perform. We didn't sign up for that shit. Nobody 
said dick about traversing a raging river on a three-quarter 
inch fucking rope! 

Nearby, the Cadre had set up a short practice rope stretched 
between two trees. The rope was only five feet above the ground. As 
we took turns learning how to execute moving along the rope, we 
each looked like a monkey playing a trumpet. It was hilarious. At 
first, we all struggled to figure out how to maneuver across the rope, 
but eventually everyone learned how to do it. 

So, one by one, we climbed onto the rope over the river, and 
went hand-over-hand to the other side. Once out over the middle of 
the river on the rope, with the raging river flowing thirty feet below, 
it created a very high asshole-pucker-factor, scaring the shit out of 
us. It was a real hairy procedure for sure hanging onto that rope for 
dear life. The maneuver had us pumped up, and our adrenalin was 
flowing like wild. The raging river became the raging river of fear. 
It was so hairy, it could make a soldier's face erupt in hives or pimples, 
like a prom queen on prom night. 

Once we one by one, under the close scrutiny and supervision 
of the Cadre, made it to the far side of the river, we inflated our air 
mattresses, got into the river, and started to paddle back to the other 
side. With the river flowing swiftly at that point, by the time a soldier 
reached the other side, he would be about a mile further down the 
river from where he started. He would then have to extricate himself 
from the river, climb the steep bank, and smash back through the 
jungle to reach the starting point. Let me tell you, my trip across the 
raging river on the rope and back into the water on my air mattress 
scared the living shit out of me. The fear of drowning caused me 
great anxiety that was real hard to overcome. But in the end, we all 



284 Bud Monaco 



were able to execute a proper river-crossing without anyone 
drowning. Dandy. Just fucking dandy. 

We were allowed to take a short break, and then started to 
prepare for an ambush mission. If the river-crossing was a tough 
challenge for us, the Cadre was going to make it even more 
interesting for the ARVNs, as we would be ambushing them 
during their river-crossing. 

The ARVNs eventually showed up, and sure as shit, we fired 
them up from our concealed positions in the jungle tree line, while 
one of them was on the rope, jacking him up and the rest of them real 
good. We quickly broke off the contact and got the hell out of there. 
It was quite the learning experience, and hopefully we would 
not have to repeat that type of mission again. 

On Thursday we hit the bush doing many of the same things. 
We got back to our tent with still a few hours of daylight left, and 
were beat to shit again. We spent some time washing up in Gatun 
Lake, and back at the tent I put on my last set of clean fatigues, 
looking forward to a good night's sleep. The squad leader came into 
our tent and told us that he needed a volunteer for a short night 
mission. I always remembered my father's advice about not 
volunteering for anything in the Army, and I sure wasn 7 going to be 
volunteering for a goddamned thing out here. Nothing good could 
come from it for sure. So, of course, no one volunteered. 

When no one volunteered, the SGT picked Louie for the 
mission as he and I were still FNG cherries. Louie was my friend and 
a pretty good guy. We had been through a lot of shit together since 
Basic, but he was also one of the biggest slackers, and would try to 
get over any way he could at all times. Actually, we all tried to get 
over at all times, so he wasn't a lone wolf about getting over. Louie 
then told the SGT that he was sick, needed to see the medics, started 
acting like he is fainting, and started making gagging sounds like he 
was going to puke. When a soldier in training becomes sick and 
requests to see the medics, the Cadre had no recourse but to give the 
soldier quarter and send him off to the medics. 

So guess what, and guess who the SGT's next choice for the 
detail is? Of course, damn it, it was me. I said to Louie, "You fuck. 
You ain't sick. Now I have to take your place on this mission which 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 285 



I just know is going to be fucked." Louie looked up at me from where 
he was sitting on his rack with his big, brown, sad eyes and said, 
"I'm sorry, brother, but I just can't go back into the jungle tonight. 
I just can't take anymore of this shit right now," and he got up off his 
rack heading over to see the medics. 

I gathered up my gear and reported to the SGT in front of the 
HQ tent. He told me he would be taking me out to a location where 
the ARVNs would be passing through before night fall, and that 
I would be back in my rack before it was dark. It didn't sound too 
bad, but I had no further choice in the matter. Unbeknown to me at 
the time, that mission would turn out to probably be the worst time 
during my two years in the Army. Actually, it turned out to be the 
worst time of my whole life. It would be a life-altering experience, 
and I didn't have a clue as to what would transpire during the 
following forty-eight-plus hours. So off I went with the 
SGT to complete the mission. 

I followed the SGT through some triple canopy jungle, across a 
small river, through some more jungle, and we eventually came out 
of the tree line in front of an open bluff of a hill. The trek took about 
an hour. We climbed up the bluff about a hundred yards high, and it 
was covered with some knee-high grass. At the top of the bluff, the 
grass was very short, leaving no cover to hide in whatsoever. It 
overlooked a fairly clear, open area of land about two hundred yards 
across, surrounded by jungle terrain. It was a commanding view 
of the terrain below. 

I had been carrying a ten pound, round, gray canister that 
contained some kind of smoke powder. It had a string fuse attached 
on the top, similar to the training hand grenades. The SGT told me 
that within the hour, a group of ARVNs would be coming out of the 
tree line from the left. Once they were out in the open, I was to pull 
the firing string to set off the canister, creating a smoke screen that 
would flow down from the top of the bluff into the open area, so the 
advancing troops would be shrouded in smoke and could not see 
where they were going. That was designed to blind their vision as a 
simulated air strike would attack them and blow them all up. The 
exercise was to teach them how to get the hell out of an open area 
quickly through the smoke and take cover. 



286 Bud Monaco 



I was to lay down behind the top of the bluff with a view of the 
open area and keep myself concealed until the ARVNs were in the 
open area. I would then pull the firing string, setting off the smoke 
screen, and then fall back down to the bottom of the bluff where the 
SGT would meet me and head back to the base camp. He was 
leaving me there on my own so he could go down the bluff into the 
jungle making sure the ARVNs were heading in the proper direction 
into the open ground. He assured me he would return and explicitly 
told me not to leave the designated fallback position. Doing so, 
I could get lost and he'd have a hell of time trying to find me. 

The SGT headed off down the bluff and disappeared into the 
jungle below. I was now on my own for the first time out in the bush, 
but thinking that nothing bad could happen to me. It was 
a short-lived thought, and only lasted for another few hours. 

As I lay down in the short grass behind the top of the bluff, 
staying concealed, it started to rain. With the first drops of light, 
sporadic rain, I just knew I was fucking doomed. Then, it started to 
rain harder and the rain turned into a monsoon blast with a crash of 
thunder, pouring buckets of rain out of the darkened, cloud-filled 
sky with a wicked wind that damn near blew me off the mountain 
top. Fuck me. Here I was, wearing my last clean fatigues, out in the 
open with no overhead cover at all, and within a New York minute, 
I was soaking wet. There was not a goddamned thing I could do 
about it. At that precise fime, I swore to myself, once I got out of this 
shit and the Army, I would never let myself be fucked like that again. 
I would never stand in the rain for the rest of my life. 

Now, soaked to the bone and lying down on the ground, I start 
getfing bit by some bugs. At first, I just started slapping at them around 
my arms and neck, but then the biting started getting worse all over 
my body. It was sfill light out with the night sky rapidly encroaching. 
I propped myself up into a sitting position before I realized I was 
covered with thousands of Red Warrior Fire Ants ! They were eating 
me alive, and seemingly trying to carry me away like in a cartoon. 
Some of the ants were at least an inch long. Geeezzzusss fucking 
Christ! What a mess I was in now. I siSLricd freaking out, slapping at 
the fire ants. Now, on my feet, I was hopping around, swatting at 
them, as I started to remove my fatigue shirt and pants to get these 
biting motherfuckers off of me. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 287 



I am now standing in the pouring monsoon rain, naked and 
horrified, with all my clothes off, slapping and whacking the ants off 
of my body madly with wild abandon. Eventually, I got them all off 
of my body, but I was already bit-to-shit and had ant bite welts all 
over my body. I shook out my clothes, put them back on, and then 
looked at the place where I had been laying. I could see that I had 
been lying right on top of the Fire Ant's nest. Once I had disturbed 
the barely visible nest concealed in the short grass, the ants had 
swarmed, attacking me, as thousands of them came rampaging out 
of the ground. That area of the ground looked like a carpet of red 
with the ants swarming in a wild frenzy out of their underground 
nest, pissed off and in full attack mode. 

Even with the trauma of the ant attack and other wacked-out 
things that happen, it is amazing how you can still find humor in any 
situation. I now started to laugh my ass off at myself, as I was 
supposed to be staying concealed so the enemy didn't see me. Yet, 
there I was, standing up in full view from the valley below, naked, 
swinging and slapping my hands and arms against my body like a 
wild man in the pouring monsoon rain. It was hysterical. Yeah, 
right, real funny. About as funny as a heart attack. The humor of it 
all passed real fast. 

After I calmed down, I took the smoke canister and moved it 
about fifteen yards to the left. Before I thought about lying down in 
the grass again, I took a good look to be sure I wasn't getfing into 
another ant nest. Even with that caudon, I was not going to lie down 
on the ground. Fuck those ARVNs. If they see me, fine, I didn't give 
a fuck now. So I waited as the rain passed, leaving the fog-shrouded 
clearing below me hardly visible from my position. 

The rain miraculously stopped and what daylight was left had 
burned off, turning into a fog-covered area with a thick, wet, 
steaming mist seeping out of the surrounding jungle. It was an eerie 
sight. The ARVNs should have arrived in the area below by now, but 
there was no sight of them. The sky cleared up, turning into a pale, 
moonlit night, giving me enough visibility to see the area around and 
below me clearly. Still, there was no sign of the ARVNs. 

By then, the curtain of night fell, becoming a dark gloom, and it 
had to be about three hours or more since the SGT left me alone on 



288 Bud Monaco 



the bluff. He surely should have been back by then, and I was 
starting to get worried that he had forgotten about me or got lost 
himself. After about another hour, with still nothing moving, 
I decided, fuck it, no one was showing up here, pulled the firing 
string on the smoke canister, and to my dismay, all it did was go puff, 
with the igniter firing, but only a little wisp of smoke was coming 
out from the top of it. Fuck, the canister had gotten soaked in the rain 
and would not burn properly. After all that, firing the smoke canister 
off would not have achieved its or my purpose for all that shit 
anyway. Goddamned it all. 

Standing on the top of the bluff, not knowing whether to shit or 
go blind, soaked to the bone, the ant bite welts swelling up into small 
hives all over my body, I decided to head back down to the bottom of 
the bluff to the fall back point, desperately hoped to meet up with the 
SGT, and get the fuck out of there. I was also very pissed off thinking 
about Louie back in the tent, all cozy and dry, and I was motherfucking 
him out loud to the high heavens. I would be giving him a boatload 
of shit over that for months on end. That was for damn sure. 

At the bottom of the bluff, at the fall back point, the SGT was 
nowhere in sight. Being pitch dark by now, I couldn't see much 
anyway. I called out for him a few times, and waited there for 
another hour or so, calling out for him every few minutes to no avail. 
Nothing was moving, and only the eerie sounds of the jungle could 
be heard. Not thinking about it before, I was now running it over in 
my mind the direction and way back through the jungle we had passed 
to find my way back on my own and get back to the base camp. So, 
I despairingly, after heavy consideration, made the decision to try to 
find my way back to the base camp on my own. Bad decision. A Very 
bad decision I would regret for a long time to come. 

Trying to visualize in my mind the way back to the base camp, 
I headed off in the direction the SGT and I had come from to reach 
this edge of the jungle at the base of the bluff Not long after, 
tramping through the jungle, I figured I should have reached the small 
river by now. No river. Nothing but thick jungle surrounding me on 
all sides. I kept on moving in the direction I thought was correct, but 
only continued to bash deeper into the jungle. 

The jungle night was starting to close in on me the longer 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 289 



I walked. It had become more foreboding than I had experienced 
before on our night missions, and I was starting to get real worried. 
After another hour or so, I finally agreed to tell myself, conceding in 
my mind, that I was now totally fucking lost in the triple canopy 
Darien jungle at night, without a single, clear thought of which 
way to go or where I was. 

What a world of shit I had gotten myself into now. With no 
other choice than to keep on moving, I hoped for the best of finding 
my way. I continued on my venture alone with my thoughts, as the 
oppressive heat and sweltering humidity continuing to bear down on 
me. Even though it was hot and humid, the night air brought a chill 
that burrowed through my wet clothes and down into my bones. 
Fighting off the chill as best I could, I kept my legs moving forward. 
Well, at least what I thought was forward, whatever direction that 
might have been. I didn't have a clue. I sure would have liked to have 
a compass with me now. But, even if I did, I didn't know which way, 
north, south, east, or west a compass heading would get me back 
to the base camp anyway. 

All I had to drink was some water in the two canteens that were 
attached to my web gear. I made a mental note to take small drinks 
and ration my water out very carefully. My M-16 rifle became like 
a fifty pound weight in my arms or strapped across my shoulders. 
My helmet felt like a big iron weight on my head and my combat 
boots felt like lead on my feet. With every step I took, I could feel my 
feet squishing against my socks inside my boots, knowing that I was 
developing some blisters. There was no way I was going to take off 
my boots at that time to wring out my socks and try to dry my feet. It 
would have to wait until daylight so I could see what I was doing. 
I sure hoped that the daylight would arrive soon. I figured daylight 
had to be three or four hours away, and knew it wouldn't arrive fast 
enough for the shape I was in. 

After another hour of walking, I was exhausted and needed to 
take a sit down break to rest for a while. The jungle sounds had been 
both alive and quiet at times. Whenever I would stop for a moment to 
listen, it would be deadly quiet. If I stood still for a few minutes, the 
jungle sounds would again come alive. Then, as I would start 
walking again, the bugs, birds and the sounds of the jungle would 



290 Bud Monaco 



become quiet, and the only noise I could hear was the sound of the 
sucking mud coming from under my boots with each step I took. 
I was now pretty freaked out and scared shitless, but I dug down 
deep in my mind and kept my fear in check, fighting to keep my 
faculties in order hour after hour. 

Finding a spot next to a giant Banyan tree, I sat down with my 
back against one of the large, above ground, roots of the tree. I took 
a few small drinks of water, and took out my pack of cigarettes and 
some matches, which I had wrapped in a plastic bag to keep them 
dry. Fortunately, even though I was soaked to the bone, the cigarettes 
and matches were still dry. Before I lit up, I thought about giving 
away my position to an enemy as I had been taught, but quickly 
laughed at myself for such thinking. I would be very pleased for 
someone to locate my position and save me from the world 
of shit I was in. 

Finishing my cigarette and taking another small swig of water 
from one of my canteens, I thought about going to sleep for a while 
until daylight, but with the cacophony of the jungle now at a high 
decibel level since I stopped moving, it brought me out of my few 
moments of relaxation, and I quickly put any thought of going to 
sleep out of mind. I gathered myself up and started walking further 
into the jungle night. The sounds of the jungle quickly came to 
a very low level within a minute as I started walking, leaving the 
sucking mud of my footsteps the only sounds I could hear. 

They say the hour before first light is the darkest hour of the 
night. I could now fully understand this age-old adage. If it was dark 
throughout my hours of humping around during the night, it seemed 
to get even darker with the jungle continuing to close in around me, 
and even more foreboding with its fearful dread heavier than it had 
been before. I struggled to keep the fear from rising up in my throat, 
and hoped that the first light of dawn would show through the triple 
canopy jungle over my head very soon. It just had to be soon, I kept 
telling myself It seemed like many hours had gone by, but in reality 
I knew it was only an hour or two at the most since I took my short 
break. Lo and behold, after hours of great anticipation, I finally started 
to see through the top of the canopy, the pre-dawn light of day 
penetrating slightly through the towering trees. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 291 



Actually, there was never any real light or air movement under 
the jungle canopy. Only the solid wall and riot of jungle vegetation, 
which was a living shroud, seemed to be the only thing prospering 
well deep in the jungle. After feeding the swarms of mosquitoes for 
so many hours, what a relief it was. I was so fucking happy, and 
figured I would find my way out of the shit now that I could see 
where I was going. I figured wrong. My revelry was short-lived. Even 
with the pre-dawn light turning to daylight, I still couldn't see ten 
yards in front of me through the jungle vegetation. I was lost in a 
world of green that was offering me absolutely no quarter. I was on 
my own. My survival depended on me keeping my wits about me. 

I continued to walk for another two hours or so with no end of 
the jungle in sight. I started to think that I might pass out from 
exhaustion, becoming unconscious and wind up as one lost 
motherfucking soldier dead on the jungle floor dying all by myself. 
Fuck me! Fuck me? "Fuck that," I told myself, got my mind back in 
order, and just kept humping, putting it in my mind that I would 
survive and find my way out of that shit eventually. Dying was not an 
option. I was going to make it come hell or high water. 

It was now a few hours past sunrise as I continued my trek 
through the jungle. I eventually came out of the thick vegetation, and 
miraculously, walked into a small clearing right in the middle of 
nowhere. The clearing was about thirty yards across and thirty yards 
wide with some tall elephant grass covering most of the area, but 
there was a small area where the grass was only a few inches high. 
This was pretty cool to be in an open area and actually be able to see 
the sky above without the triple canopy jungle blocking it out. It was 
a pleasant relief, and I felt good about it. I was thinking that the area 
looked like someone had cleared the patch of land with the 
probability that there just might be some human life nearby. Turned 
out not to be the case, but it was still a welcome sight to find some 
open ground for the time being. 

I was still soaking wet, the humidity in the air was thick enough 
to drink, and with the sun clearly shining down into the clearing, 
I decided to make a small fire, take off my web gear, wet fatigues, 
boots and socks, and lay them on the ground to let the sun dry them 
out. I gathered some dry grass, a few dry branches, cleared a small 



292 Bud Monaco 



area in the grass, and started a fire with the matches I had. Before 
I did any of that, I made sure to look over the area real good so 
I didn't wind up making my little camp on top of another ant nest, or 
any other hordes of insect's nests. I was learning all the time. 

Being stripped down to my underwear, my skin started to dry 
out, and my feet, which were blistered in spots and shriveled up pretty 
bad from the water immersion, also were drying quickly. I was still 
covered with big red welts all over my body from the Fire Ants' 
attack. I could now, in the daylight, really see how much of my body 
was covered with swollen red welts. There were also many cuts and 
scrapes on my arms and legs from crashing through the brush during 
the night. It wasn't pretty at all. 

I kept holding my boots up near the small fire trying to dry them 
out faster. The leather was completely soaked through and through. 
With the heat of the fire and the sun beating down, my body, boots, 
and clothes were drying out nicely. 

I then remembered that I had some stuff in my backpack and 
opened it up. I was gratefully surprised to find out that I had two cans 
of C-Rations wrapped inside a pair of clean socks, and a clean set of 
underwear. The Army back pack was made of durable canvass 
cloth, but the inside of it had a waterproof lining that kept 
the contents inside dry. 

I still have that Army back pack to this day. Over the past forty 
years, I have used it regularly for carrying all sorts of non-military 
things. It's surely a prized possession, and every time I use it, 
I non-fondly remember those days and nights I was lost in the jungle. 

What a joy to find these items. I quickly opened one of the 
C-Ration cans and started to eat the cold food, using my fingers. 
Then I figured what the hell, I can put the can next to the fire to heat 
it up, and I now had a hot meal ready to eat. It was wonderful. I had 
not eaten since the previous day and I was really hungry. I was 
feeling real good about my options now. I was drying out, had 
something to eat, and my prospects of finding my way out of here 
were looking a lot better. I felt pretty slick sitting there in my little 
camp, using some simple survival tactics to maintain my sanity. 

Taking a few sips, I checked to see how my water was holding 
out. I still had one full canteen, and the second canteen was about 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 293 



a quarter full. I also found in my back pack, the Army issue, small 
plastic container with water purification tablets in it. If worse came 
to worse and I ran out of fresh canteen water, I could always fill 
a canteen with river water, pop a couple of water purification tablets 
in the canteen, shake it up real good, and I would have some water to 
survive on. Not the best case scenario using any sort of jungle water, 
because the water was not to be used for drinking. It was loaded 
with parasites, unknown viruses and poisons. It would only be a 
last ditch option, at best. 

I had taken note of the sun's location overhead, which was 
presently to my right. I kept an eye on it to see which way it was 
moving, knowing that the sun rose in the east and moved across the 
sky to the west. With that knowledge, I would be able to figure out 
which direction I would take to find a road, or eventually come upon 
Gatun Lake, which would be to the east. At least I would have a 
decent direction to follow. Yeah, right. Without a compass, stomping 
around in the jungle was pretty much a lost cause. I sure wish I had 
one with me now. I did know the general proximity of the JOTC 
course area in reference to the maps the squad leader was using. 
I knew that Gatun Lake would be in an easterly direction, and that 
would be the direction I would take. 

Sitting there in my little camp, pretty much dried out by now, 
I realized how beat up and exhausted I was, and thought I would 
close my eyes for djust a few minutes to get myself forty winks of 
sleep. Using my steel pot helmet for a pillow, after I had put my 
dried out fatigues, clean underwear, socks and boots back on, I closed 
my eyes and instantly fell asleep. I woke up from some sort of 
startling noise, quickly }umped to my feet, grabbed my M-16, and 
took a good look around. Nothing was moving, but the jungle noise 
around the clearing was clearly audible. Then I heard the sound 
again. It must have been some monkeys chattering away 
further above in the canopy. 

The blazing hot tropical sun was now directly overhead, and 
I now knew which way was east or west, as the sun had moved from 
my right to my left. The sky was a beautiful bright sapphire blue 
without a cloud in sight. There were many brightly-colored 
butterflies, moths, and insects flying around the clearing. They were 



294 Bud Monaco 



very pretty and unique, but I wasn't on a National Geographic 
exploration, and started to figure out my next move. 

My small fire had gone out and was still smoldering a bit. 
I stomped out what was left of it and spread the ashes around so it 
didn't start the rest of the dried grass in the clearing on fire. I thought 
about starting a larger fire, and then covering it with wet vegetation 
to make a smoke signal, but thought better of doing that. With the 
way my luck had been going, I would probably start a raging inferno 
in the dry elephant grass, get myself trapped in the flames, and burn 
myself to death. So that idea went right out the window without 
much further thought. 

Gathering up my gear, I knew I had to be getting on my way, 
and after looking back at my little camp, I remorsefully headed back 
into the jungle tree line to continue to try to find my way out of the 
jungle. After about an hour or so passed, I faintly heard the 
distinctive sound of a Huey chopper's rotor blades with its 
distinctive 'whup, whup, whup' sounds from far away, and then 
getting louder as it approached overhead. The chopper was now 
directly overhead, but I could not see it at all. I knew the chopper 
crew could not see me through the triple canopy jungle either. I started 
screaming out at the top of my voice, 'T'm down here, you 
motherfuckers. I'm down here." Then, I chambered a blank round 
out of my ammo magazine into my M-16 and fired off a half-dozen 
rounds into the air, hoping they might hear the rounds going off or 
maybe even see the muzzle flashes. 

Not a chance. The chopper was traversing around the area, and 
I figured that if I could get back to the clearing, there might be 
a chance they could locate me in the open area. So I double-timed 
back in the direction I had just come from, and reached the clearing 
about a twenty minutes later. I could still hear the chopper, but it was 
nowhere in sight, as it was further to the east. Then, the chopper 
sounds faded away quickly, and I was standing right back in the 
clearing where I started. Fuck me. No joy. 

Soaking wet with sweat again, I took the same path for a second 
time, and continued my trek. The hours dragged by. I was losing 
hope of finding a road or a beaten path of some sort to follow, but to 
no avail. With the chopper passing overhead earlier, I had some 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 295 



wishful thinking, at least I thought they were out here looking for 
me. I kept in my mind the old military adage, 'leave no man behind,' 
hoping that would be the case, and they would fmd me soon. 

After many hours of bashing around in the jungle, I could see 
the daylight fading into a murky dusk through the top of the canopy. 
It brought much dismay to my mind, knowing that I would probably 
be spending another night lost in the jungle. I wasn't looking 
forward to it, but as before, there were no second choices. I figured 
they would not try to search for me during the night, so I put it in my 
mind to continue to gut it out and keep on moving. Sucking it up and 
trying to embrace the suck, I reached into my inner-self to keep my 
faculties intact, as the always pitch-black jungle night came down 
around me like a foreboding doom. 

During my first night lost in the jungle, I didn't give much 
thought to the danger of animals, snakes, or a big ass tarantula 
attacking me. During the second night, I was becoming more aware 
of just how much danger I was in, and vividly thought about the giant 
boa constrictor we had come across during one of our ambush 
missions. We had the boa pointed out to us by the SGT, and none of 
us had even seen it in the light of day. So what chance did I have of 
seeing such a snake or tarantula in the dark of night before it 
attacked me? Less to none, that was for sure. The deep shit I was in 
kept getting deeper. I needed a set of wings to stay above it. But, you 
know, there were no wings available. Fuck me. 

Trying to stay aware of my surroundings more so now, at one 
time, hours later, there was no jungle noise except for the 
mud-sucking sounds coming from my boots. Somewhat startled, 
I thought I heard a louder noise, like someone bashing around in the 
vegetation nearby, and I stopped to listen. I called out in the dark, 
"Is someone out there?" two or three times, but got no response. Not 
hearing the sound further I started to walk again and then heard the 
sound again. Stopping again to listen, I called out again. I could still 
hear nothing else except my heavy breathing and my htari pounding 
in my chest from fear. I knew I heard something other than myself, 
and it was very disconcerting. Fighting off my unbridled hysteria, 
with the inhuman surrealism of the jungle all around me, 
I continued forward. 



296 Bud Monaco 



Just as I took a few more steps forward, the jungle silence was 
shattered with a gut-wrenching scream from up above me in the 
canopy. I dropped to my knees, chambered another blank ammo round 
into my M-16, and damn near shit my pants. The screaming 
continued for a few moments, and then I heard the loud, smashing 
and crashing sound ripping through the canopy, as the screaming 
faded and the crashing sound moved further away from my location. 
I was scared shitless, and I thought my heart was going to jump right 
out of my chest. Only then did I realize that it was a fucking Howler 
monkey that was in the canopy. I had scared the monkey as much as 
he had scared the shit out of me, and screaming was one of his 
defense mechanisms that the monkey used against predators to scare 
them off. It worked real well on me, for sure. Even with the sweating 
I had going on, I was now profusely sweating bullets, and couldn't 
figure if it was sweat coming out of my crotch, running down my 
leg, or if I had actually pissed in my fatigue pants. 

Once my heart finally stopped pounding like a drum, I gathered 
my wits about me again, and continued moving forward. At least 
I thought I was moving forward in an easterly direction, but after so 
many hours of plowing through the jungle at night, I didn't have a 
clue which direction I was going. "Just keep moving," I kept telling 
myself, "Just keep moving." 

A few hours later, I was becoming mentally and physically 
fatigued, as the dark, foreboding jungle night seemed to be closing 
in from all sides around me, giving me the willies. I was 
disorientated, and pretty rattled, with the fingers of sanity pretty 
obscured by now. I decided to take a short break and sit down for a 
bit, have a drink of water and a smoke, only then realizing that I was 
being eaten alive with the ever present swarms of mosquitoes biting 
the shit out of me. By now, my face, neck and hands were covered 
with bite marks, but I couldn't see them very well, and tried to put it 
out of my mind. While I was sitting there smoking and swatting at 
the bugs madly, I surely heard sounds nearby like someone bashing 
through the vegetation. The jungle noise had resumed since I stopped 
moving, and now it got dead quiet again. A strange calm came over 
me, but I just knew something or someone was out there nearby to 
quiet the jungle noise. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 297 



I calmly rose to my feet as I chambered another blank round 
into my M-16, and the metal upon metal noise of the round being 
chambered was the only sound to be heard. Chambering a blank round 
would not give me much protection, but the blast of the blank round 
going off and the muzzle flash would most likely scare off any wild 
animals near by. Maybe, the shot would be heard by someone as 
well. I then heard the sound again and yelled out, "Is there someone 
out there?" Getting no response, I yelled out again with the same 
results. So with nothing else left to do, I pulled the trigger of my 
rifle, firing off three rounds in succession. When the shattering sounds 
of the rounds going off, faded into an ominous, real dead quiet, 
nothing could be heard, but the jungle noise starting to rise 
again into its incessant crescendo. 

During all our time out in the bush over the past four weeks, we 
had not seen a single animal other than birds and the boa constrictor. 
The SGT had assured us that there were wild boars, muskrat type 
animals, monkeys of all sizes, tree sloths, anteaters, possums, and 
although none had been seen in years, there were some tigers and 
panthers roaming around. Remembering that, I quickly got back on 
my way, not wanting to be a sitting duck and get attacked by some 
hungry jungle beast. Funny, I didn't give that a single thought during 
my first night, but I was sure clearly and definitely aware of the 
danger now. Scared shitless aware was more like it. 

Speaking of scared shitless. I had to take a shit. But it would 
have to wait. I wasn't about to let some snake, or other jungle thing, 
crawl up my ass in the dark while I was crouching on the jungle 
floor, with my pants down, taking a shit. 

Hours later, a speck of the pre-dawn light of day started to peek 
through the canopy, seeping some much-heralded light down to the 
jungle floor that was greatly appreciated. Goddamned, that was a big 
relief as the dark jungle night had really started to wear on me 
mentally. An hour or so later, the daylight was squeaking through the 
canopy with a misty, eerie, grayish, fog shroud covering the floor of 
the jungle, like steam rising straight from hell below, and I could 
finally see a few yards in front of me once again. What a relief for 
sure. It had been one hell of a spooky night. The pure darkness had 
instilled panic and unnerved me quite a bit. With the daylight upon 



298 Bud Monaco 



me, it gave me a better mindset that I would find my way out of the 
shit before another night came down and engulfed me in the 
darkness for another nine hours. 

From those nighttime hours I spent in the jungle, years later, 
after seeing the 1979 movie, 'Apocalypse Now J I knew were Colonel 
Kurtz was coming from. Out in the jungle, it didn't take long to go 
native, become primordial, and lose your fucking mind. 

Back home seemed like a far-away dream. I couldn't picture in 
my mind what it was like back on the block. The surrounding, deep, 
strangulating jungle engulfed and consumed me, mentally and 
physically. I became a small microcosm that the jungle absorbed, 
like a leaf on a tree or a dead fucking ant. I was fucked. Fuck me. It 
really sucked. I didn't get through four years of high school 
for this fucking shit! 

With the daylight arriving, I decided to take another short break 
before continuing my trek. Finding a place to sit next to a root of 
another Banyan tree, I had a few drinks of water from my second 
canteen, which was, maybe, half-full as the first one was now 
bone-dry. I opened up my last can of C-Rations, which turned out to 
be the hated beans and motherfuckers, but wolfed them down. I lit up 
a cigarette and contemplated the sad situation I was in. Not having 
any further second choices, I gathered myself up and continued on 
my way. Not being able to see the sun to use for any kind of direction 
heading, I kept on moving, hoping I would come across another 
clearing to be able to see the sun and get a better direction heading. 

Being able to see in the daylight, I was blown away by all the 
bite marks from the bugs and mosquitoes which were all over my 
exposed hands, wrists and arms. I could only imagine what my neck 
and face looked like. I also noticed that I had numerous slivers of 
Black Palm all over the back and palms of my hands, and on my 
arms. I had surely crashed, unknowingly, through some Black Palm 
in the dark, but didn't know it at the time. Then I started to feel a 
burning itching all around my waist band inside my fatigue pants, as 
well as around my neck, armpits, and at the top of my boots on my 
legs. The growing itching was mostly where my clothes and boot 
tops were rubbing against my skin. I didn't give it much thought, 
trying to mentally block it out. Along with the ant bite welts, the bug 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 299 



bites, and scratches all over my body it was just something else 
I had to deal with. 

It had to be around high noon by now, and I was completely 
blown. I had only slept for an hour or two back at the clearing the 
day before, and I could hardly keep my eyes open. I had been 
waltzing around in the jungle for nearly forty hours, and I was dead 
on my feet. I now had to reach down deep into my inner self, with no 
other recourse to will myself to keep pushing on. I was wearing down 
real fast, and knew it could likely be a deadly situation for me if 
I didn't fmd some help soon. I tried to block from my mind the 
likelihood of spending another night in the jungle. 

After another hour or so of humping, I thought I could see some 
open area through the trees, and hurriedly made my way towards the 
light. Miraculously, to my delighted surprise, I walked into an open 
clearing about forty yards wide and across, and right there on the far 
side of the clearing was a thatched, wooden-framed hooch house, 
with a raggedy-looking Panamanian woman bent over a wash bucket 
washing clothes. There were four or five little kids, none older than 
ten, literally naked, running around playing. There was a small fire 
burning in a fire pit with a black bucket or pot hanging over it, on a 
cross-support stick being heated by the fire. 

Holy fucking shit! / was savedl I was going to make it! I couldn't 
believe my eyes. Finally, the sight of human life right there in front 
of me, out here in the middle of nowhere. Was I ecstatic and ready to 
jump for joy at that wonderful sight. As I came out of the tree line 
and into the clearing, the woman saw me and looked at me with 
a frightful look on her face. She quickly called out in Spanish to the 
children, gathered them up, and hurried into the hut. I must have 
looked like hell, with my face reddened, swollen, covered in bite 
marks, and my fatigues hanging like rags on my body filthy with 
mud. I also had my M-16 slung over my shoulder, and with my steel 
pot helmet on, she didn't know what to make of me, as I crawled out 
of the jungle like a wild animal. 

Funny thing came to mind as I got a pretty good look at the 
naked children. There was not a single bug bite, scratch, or cut 
visible. None, zero. Here were those children running around in the 
jungle naked, and not a single bug bite on any of them. I found that to 



300 Bud Monaco 



be amazing. I guessed those indigenous people living out here in the 
wilderness were immune to the bugs. That was all I could figure. 

I cautiously approached a little further across the clearing and 
called out to the woman as she was peeking out of the doorframe of 
the hut. "Hello. I'm an American and I'm lost. Can you show me the 
way to a road?" Then it dawned on me that the indigenous people 
didn't understand a word of English. So I then said in the little, surely 
incorrect, Spanish I knew, "Hola, seniorita. Mi Americano. Por 
favor, can you help mi?" Still, no response whatsoever. 

Then, I saw a dark brown-skinned Panamanian man, a good 
three to four inches shorter than me, walk out from behind the hut. 
He was only wearing a pair of dirty shorts and barefoot. He didn't 
seem aggressive or dangerous, but he was a tough-looking, 
well-weathered, hard-skinned man, and I could clearly see that he 
was carrying a long, steel machete in his right hand. "Oh shit," I said 
to myself, and I very cautiously approached closer to him. I repeated 
what I said to the woman, getting the same response from him. 
Nothing. Not a bit of response. 

I then took my M-16 off of my shoulder, removed my steel pot 
helmet, and placed them on the ground in front of me with about ten 
yards between us. Now, with my hands and arms outstretched, and 
my palms up, showing him I meant him no harm, I again repeated 
my greeting and request for help in my botched Spanish. Pointing to 
my Army tag on my fatigue shirt I said, "U. S. Army, GI soldier. 
Por favor, can usted help mi?" Still no response, but he was looking 
me over real good and still being real cautious. I then said in 
English, and with hand gestures, if he could show me the way to 
a path or a road, moving and waving my arms around like I was 
driving a vehicle. 

He made a motion with his arm and the machete, pointing to 
what looked like a barely visible path leading away from the 
clearing into the jungle. I pointed to where he was pointing and asked, 
"This way?" He nodded back at me and then said his first word to 
me, "Si." That was it. I said to him, "Mucho gracias," picked up my 
helmet and rifle, and skirted around him, giving him plenty of space 
between us as he was still wielding that menacing looking machete. 

As I moved to go past him, I slowly reached into my fatigue 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 301 

shirt pocket and pulled out my pack of cigarettes, showed them to 
him and asked, "Fumar, amigo?" and held out the pack for him to 
see. He looked me over again, looked at the pack of cigarettes and 
replied back to me with one more word, "Si," and took one of the 
cigarettes that were extended out of the pack. I then shook out 
another cigarette in offering, and he reached out and took it also 
without another word. I then said, ' Adios, amigo," walked past him, 
and wandered over to the narrow, somewhat beaten path. 

About a mile or so, as I walked along the path with the jungle 
close in around me, I could finally see a slight opening in the tree 
line and hurried forward. Bam! Goddamned Bam\ The path led me 
out of the jungle, and there, right in front of me, was a narrow, rutted, 
single lane of an actual road. I was so fucking happy and yelled out 
in joy, "Fucking A! You motherfuckers! Goddamned fucking A!" 

I ecstatically knew now that the road had to lead to somewhere, 
and it would be my lifeline to safety and survival. There would be no 
way in hell I would leave that road for any reason. Settling myself 
down, I looked up the road one way and down the road the other way. 
I couldn't see it leading anywhere from my location. The jungle tree 
line was right up against both sides of the road, and the tree tops 
were mostly growing over the road. It looked like a tunnel through 
the trees more than a road, with the furthest point in the road fading 
into the tree line like a vanishing point. I could see the sky overhead 
from the clearing in the road. The sun was on my left, so I figured 
that would be west, and decided to head down the road to the 
right, assuming that was east. 

I didn't give a second's thought about how exhausted and tired 
I was, took a drink of water from my now almost empty canteen, lit 
up a cigarette, and moseyed on down the road. It was like a walk in 
the park compared to the shit I had been humping through for the 
past two and half days. I must have walked for hours, dragging my 
feet, losing my new-found revelry, and starting to get real anxious 
about reaching some unknown point down the road that would take 
me back to any kind of civilizafion. I kept telling myself that the road 
just had to lead to somewhere. I was sure no one would build a road 
that led nowhere. Rightl Yeah, right, I kept saying out loud, as I was 
now talking to myself more often, getting pretty soft in the brain, and 



302 Bud Monaco 



a little bit more batty than I already was. 

I could see that the sun was making its way down, setting low 
over the tree line behind me, and I knew that the night was coming 
down in the next few hours. I couldn't believe that I had not found 
any place or person after all the hours of walking I had been doing. It 
would soon be over forty-eight hours plus since I got myself into that 
shit-fest. I was trying real hard not to panic, and kept telling myself 
out loud to just keep moving. I would find someplace one way or 
another no matter what. 

Pretty much delirious by now and out of water, there weren't 
any options left for me but to keep on walking. I told myself that if 
I didn't find anything by the time it was night fall, I would just lay 
down on the side of the road, go to sleep and wait for morning. 
I needed some sleep badly, but couldn't bring myself to stopping at 
that point and lying down to sleep, so I just kept going. 

The last of my energy was fading fast when I thought I heard 
something. I stopped walking, listened carefully, and I was sure 
I was hearing a motor of some sort. At first, I thought it might be 
another Search and Rescue chopper, but I wasn't hearing the whup, 
whup, whup of a chopper's rotor blades. The motor sound became 
clearer, and I was pretty sure it was the sound of a truck engine. In 
a few minutes, I could now clearly hear the grinding, whining sound 
of a duce and a half truck, and my hopes of someone finding me 
soared. Then, I could hear the truck motor real clear, and from around 
the bend in the road in front of me, I saw an OD Army green deuce 
and half truck coming right down the road about a hundred yards away. 

Oh, sweet fucking goddamned joy ! It was just great. I was saved 
and damn near collapsed right there in the middle of the road. The 
truck came to a stop in front of me, and a younger-looking-than-me 
second lieutenant hopped out of the shotgun seat, with a dozen 
soldiers climbing out of the back of the truck. They were staring at 
me with amazed looks on their faces as I had to look like ten miles of 
bad road. The LT then said to me, "Are you Private Monaco from 
Fort Kobbe and detailed to JOTC?" I answered him back and said in 
a weakened voice, "Yes, I am, sir!" He then went into an 
unbelievable fucking tirade about what the fuck did I go and do 
getting myself lost for the past two and a half days. He conUnued his 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now ! 303 



badgering, telling me that the whole goddamned battalion of the 4th 
and the 20th out of Fort Davis was out here searching for me, and 
that the Army had scrambled choppers out of Fort Clayton to aid in 
the search and rescue trying to find me. 

I looked at him in amazement, not comprehending why he was 
giving me shit like that after what I had been through. I then, pissed 
off now, responded, just less than smart-mouthing off, and said to 
him, "Sir, I surely didn't choose to get lost and damn near get myself 
killed out in the fucking jungle, and you beating me up over it ain't 
gonna make a bit of difference one way or another. So, can I have 
some fresh water to drink, and you and these soldiers just take me 
back to the JOTC base camp, so I can recover from the beating I have 
taken over the past forty-eight hours plus, sirV A SGT quickly came 
up next to me, putting his arm around me, pulling me away from that 
jackoff, brown bar officer, and said to him, "Fll take care of this guy 
in the back of the truck, and we can head out of here to take him back 
to the JOTC base camp, sir." 

With that, the SGT just about picked me up, walked me to the 
back of the truck, and then with the help of another soldier, they had 
to pick me up to get me into the truck bed as I was so weak I couldn't 
climb up there on my own. As the truck was now moving after 
making a U-turn in the narrow road, the soldiers in the truck bed 
with me told me that I looked like shit, and I looked more dead than 
alive. They continued to tell me about the search and rescue mission 
them and the rest of their Battalion of the 4th and the 20th had been 
on out in the jungle searching for me. They told me the whole 
brigade was up in arms over the missing soldier, that was me, and 
that my Battalion CO and HHC CO had arrived at Fort Davis to help 
assist in the search for their soldier from Fort Kobbe. They also told 
me, as far as they knew, that neither one of the COs had left the HQ's 
building at Fort Davis since they arrived that morning. So much for 
their help. I guess they looked good trying to show some concern for 
one of their soldiers. Just another day in the Army. 

I asked the soldiers in the truck if someone had a canteen of 
fresh water. One of them handed me his canteen, and I guzzled it 
down, draining the canteen. Having some fresh water to drink was 
wonderful. Another soldier asked me if I was hungry. I said I was, 



304 Bud Monaco 



and he handed me a C-Ration can. I opened it up with my P-38 can 
opener, which was attached to the dog tag chain around my neck, 
and couldn 't believe what I saw inside the can. It was a can of beans 
and motherfuckersl Damn. I looked at the soldier and said, ''Beans 
and motherfuckersl I only had one can left of C-Rations yesterday, 
and it was beans and motherfuckers V The soldiers all laughed loudly, 
and the guy who gave me the can said, "What did you think? That 
I was going to save my C-Ration can of peaches for youT We all 
were laughing now, and I proceeded to eat the beans and 
motherfuckers with my fingers until I emptied out the can. 

Back at the JOTC base camp reporting in, I was met out in front 
of the HQ tent by the CO, MSGT, the Cadre squad leader, my mortar 
squad SGT, some of the other JOTC Cadre, two medics, and some of 
the guys from our aggressor detail. They took one look at me and 
someone said, "Geeezzzusss fucking christ! What the fuck happened 
to youT I looked like I had been jammed like shit through a tin horn. 
More so, I looked liked like I had been jammed like shit through 
a spaghetti strainer. I was in pretty rough shape, but still alive and 
well. Well, not real well, but alive none the less. 

The CO and the MSGT said that they would debrief me the next 
day after I got cleaned up, ate, and got a good night's sleep. By that 
time, the bug bites, cuts and scratches were driving me crazy. I could 
feel my skin under my fatigues burning like a bitch, and I scratched 
crazily causing myself great discomfort. One of the medics told me 
to take off my fatigue shirt, and with one look at my bare chest, neck, 
and arms said, "Holy shit, you are completely infested with jiggers 
all over your body. Your skin is just about completely covered with 
insect bites and welts, and you got Black Palm literally coming out 
of your ass!" He then had me drop my fatigue pants and said, "Holy 
shit, this is the worst infestation of jiggers I have ever seen." All 
around where my fatigues and boots had been rubbing against my 
skin on my lower legs, crotch, waist, armpits, neck, and wrists, there 
were thick, bright red bands of raw skin. The jigger bugs had eaten 
their way through and into my skin, and were having a feast on my 
body. The jiggers had totally infested and bitten into those areas, and 
their heads broke off, burrowing further under my skin and 
reproducing. I was really fucked. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 305 



One of the medics said, "This has to be taken care of right now," 
and the two medics started stripping off all of my clothes, removed 
my combat boots, someone secured my web gear and my M-16, 
and with the MSGT, walked me over to where a couple of 
fifty-five gallon drum barrels of diesel fuel were stashed some 
yards behind the HQ tent. 

They then took some canteens of water and poured the water 
over my head and body as I was standing there naked, washing off 
some of the mud and scum that I was covered in. For being out in the 
jungle, I had sure spent a lot of time being naked. Ha, go figure. 
I was somewhat delirious and telling them that I felt like I was being 
eaten alive, actually bringing me to tears and making me cry like a 
little girl. The one medic said, "You are being eaten alive you dumb 
fuck. Now hold still, suck it up, quit your crying, and quit jumping 
around so I can deal with this. We have a proven Green Beret method 
to fix this real quick." 

I could see the MSGT unlatching the metal ring that secured the 
cover of the drum barrel and removing it. I could see that the barrel 
was about three quarters full of diesel fuel, and in d flash that I could 
do nothing about, the two medics picked me up bodily, stuck me into 
the drum barrel of diesel fuel feet first and pushed me down into the 
barrel up to my neck. Instantly, I felt like my whole body was on fire 
as the diesel fuel started to bum my skin like hot coals, especially 
burning like a motherfucker around the jigger infestation places. Most 
of my skin was like one big open wound with ant, bug bites, cuts, 
scratches, and Black Palm covering ninety percent of my body. 
I thought I was going to diel 

I started screaming madly, "I'm burning, I'm burning up, I'm 
on fire. What the fuck are you guys doing to me?" I was trying to 
climb out of the barrel, but they held me down in it by my shoulders 
and were saying, "This is the only way to kill the jiggers by 
smothering them, burning them up, and burning the first layer of 
your skin off with the diesel fuel." All the other bug bites, scratches 
and cuts were also getting the fuck burned up, and I thought I was 
going to go into shock and pass out right there inside the 
barrel of diesel fuel. 

Oh my raggedy fucking ass! It was absolutely fucking nuts! 



306 Bud Monaco 



What a fucking nightmare! The fumes from the diesel fuel were 
gagging me as I was breathing them into my lungs. I was getting so 
dizzy that I started to pass out and thought I was going to puke. Then 
the gag got me real good, and I started to dry heave heavily. I thought 
my liver and kidneys were going iofly right out of my throat I was 
dry heaving so hard. As much as the diesel fuel was burning me up, 
the diesel fuel was 2i\so freezing cold against my bare skin. What a 
fucked up combination, burning, freezing, dry heaving, and passing 
out at the same time. Fuck me\ What another world of shit I was in. 

The medics held me down in the barrel for another few minutes 
or ^o, finally pulling me out by the shoulders. Once out of the barrel, 
standing on the ground on my bare feet, the medics looked me over 
real good, and my whole body was uncontrollably shaking with a 
chill like I had never experienced before. They seemed to be pleased 
with what they saw, and then started pouring more water over me to 
rinse the diesel fuel off of my body. As everyone knows, oil and 
water don't mix. Well, diesel fuel and water dont mix either, and it 
took another half-dozen canteens of water poured over my body from 
head to toe to remove most of the diesel fuel. Then they wiped 
me down with some towels. But I continued to shake and 
shiver uncontrollably. 

The medics finally wrapped me in an Army blanket to warm me 
up. Keep in mind that the temperature was still ninety degrees plus in 
the jungle, yet I wsis freezing my ass off. They made me drink some 
water to gargle, washing the diesel fuel and fumes out of my mouth. 
They also had me snort some of the water into my nose to clear that 
out too. Drinking and gargling the water made me dry heave some 
more. My throat was just about swelled closed up from all the 
heaving, puking, and gagging. My stomach muscles and ribs were 
painfully stretched to the limits. 

The medics were veteran. Green Beret Cadre, and one of them 
said, ''OK, settle down now, you are going to be just fine. This is 
nothing soldier. During my last tour of combat in Vietnam, I had to 
hold a soldier's severed artery together with my bare hands so he 
wouldn't bleed out, and, hold his guts together inside his shredded, 
split wide-open stomach with a mess kit pan, after he was blown to 
shit by a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) during a fire fight with the 
fucking goddamned bastard Viet Cong. Think about that, and you 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 307 



won 7 be feeling so bad at all." I contemplated what he had said, and 
it actually made me realize that I was not in such bad shape after all. 
I wasn't going to be bleeding out with my guts torn open and die, so 
his words calmed me down pretty good. 

I finally stopped shaking as the warm air and the blanket wrapped 
around me was bringing my body temperature back to somewhat 
normal. The medics told me they were going to take me back to my 
tent, but not to eat any food for a few hours, and only to drink a little 
water at a time so I didn't get the dry heaves again. They gave me 
a couple of tubes of burn salve to spread over the jigger areas, as well 
as lathering salve onto the other cuts and scratches on my body 
before I put on clean fatigues and underwear. We walked back 
towards the aggressor tent, and once again, this time, still barefoot, 
I had to walk through the creek water that was between our tent and 
the HQ compound. Fuck, the water was freezing cold on my bare 
feet, and I started to shiver again, but not as bad as before. Once 
inside the tent, sitting on my bunk, I dried my feet with a towel, 
pulled on some socks, underwear, and fatigues, took a few sips of 
water, and gratefully, totally blown out of my head, laid down on my 
rack, pulling the Army blanket around me tightly. It was absolute 
heaven. I had made it. I would have been real proud of myself if 
I could think straight, but that would have to wait until another time. 

The jungle night had come down by now with only some faint 
light showing in the tent from a small kerosene lantern. All the guys 
gathered around my rack standing over me, and started asking me 
dozens of questions in rapid fire about what had happened to me, 
how I got lost, where I was, and more. I could barely talk or 
give them any answers, and said I had to go to sleep. I would tell 
them all about it the next day. 

Just before I passed out, Louie sat down on the edge of my rack 
with a dejected look on his face, and said in a sincere, low voice, 
with his St. Louis drawl, "Mon-eee-co, my friend. I am so sorry that 
you wound up going through all this shit. I'm sorry, brother." I 
dreamily looked up at him and said, "Louie, you fuck. You owe me 
big time for this shit, and I will be collecting it from you for a long 
fime to come you prick." But this is the way it played out, Louie's 
fault or not. It was just another day in the Army, and I fell fast asleep 
in a deep, deep slumber. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 309 



Chapter 42 

JOTC: The End Is Near 

''You Don 7 Live Long. 

If You Don 7 Live and Learn. 

To Understand Punishment. 

You Must Endure Pain. 

Wisdom Only Comes Through Suffering. 

Except For Death. 

You Can Survive Anything.'' 

I woke up the next day and didn't have a clue what time it was. 
There was no one else in the tent except me, and I assumed they 
were all out in the jungle on another mission. Turned out that it was 
past noon, and I had slept for over twelve hours. I still had all my 
clothes on, so all I had to do was pull on my finally dried-out combat 

boots, as I had to go take a shit real 
bad. My stomach was aching, and 
when I made my way to the latrine 
area, I pulled up the wooden shit can 
seat. The shit can was damn near/w// 
to the brim and stinking like a 
motherfucker. Goddamn it! I guess 
since I was lost for the past days 
there were no FNGs detailed for 
a shit-burning detail. Lovely. 
Just fucking lovely. 
Well, I had to shit real bad, pulled down my fatigue pants, 
plopped my bare ass on the splintered, make-shift toilet seat, and the 
shit came roaring out of my asshole like a raging river, as I had 
diarrhea like I never had before. It was splashing into the shit and 
piss under me, and splashing back up all over my bare ass. It was a 
monster air and water show like I couldn't believe. It was burning 
my asshole like a hot welding torch, and I couldn't believe how much 
liquid shit was flying out of my asshole. Only then, did I realize that 
I had not brought any toilet paper with me to wipe my ass. Fuck me! 
Would the fucking shit never end or what? 

So, I unlaced my combat boots, took them off, and pulled my 



y^^ -vp^^ 






mm 




rp 



310 Bud Monaco 



fatigue pants and underwear off, walked back to the tent, removed 
the rest of my clothes, grabbed a bar of soap and a towel, and climbed 
down the slope, jumping headfirst into Gatun Lake. That was great. 
I still had diesel fuel clinging to my body along with the rest of the 
jungle scum, and took my sweet time washing it all off with a bar of 
soap. I had a hell of a time getting the diesel fuel remnants out of 
my nose, ears and throat, got some gags going on, doing more 
dry heaving to boot. 

After about an hour of splashing around in the water, I made my 
way back up the muddy slope to the tent, and put my boots and clothes 
back on. There was still no one around, so I made my way over to the 
HQ area looking for something to eat. I called out into the HQ tent to 
see if anyone was in there, and the MSGT came out to meet me. He 
invited me into the tent and told me to sit down for a debriefing. 

Once I finished telling him everything I did while I was lost, he 
was taking some notes as I told him my story, and he looked at me 
and said, "Soldier, you did a fine job out there on your own to 
survive. Many other soldiers would not have handled themselves as 
well as you did, and I'm real proud of you. You are to be commended 
for your actions and endurance." He continued further in a loud 
commanding voice, with his rock jaw ratchefing around like a hatchet. 
''But, you were a total fucking asshole to leave the fall back position, 
and then get yourself lost. Don't you ever do that again. Do 
you understand me, soldier?" All I could meekly say was, 
"Yes, Top. I understand." 

With the debriefing over. Top told me to go see the medic to 
check on my skin, grab up a box of C-Rations, and have something 
to eat. It was now Saturday and the last day of the JOTC training 
rotation. He told me I could have the rest of the day off to recuperate, 
and the aggressor force detail would be taken back to Fort Sherman 
the following day, Sunday. 

I went to the medic tent and had one of the medics look me 
over. My body was still beet-red from head to toe from the burning 
done by the diesel fuel dipping. The welts from the ant and bug bites 
were still swollen, but the wide bands that were imbedded around 
my neck, wrists, ankles, and waist from the jigger infestation were 
turning an ugly, putrid, brownish black. He gave me another tube of 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 311 



salve and told me to lather it on real good to help the healing process. 

Then, I grabbed up a box of C-Rations from a soldier over by 
the HQ tent, and headed back to the aggressor tent. First, I stripped 
down and lathered the salve all over my body. Putting my clothes 
back on, I sat on the edge of my bunk and I started to open the box of 
C-Rations. I was goddamned straight to fucking hell amazed. 
Opening up my dinner can, I saw it was beans and motherfuckersl 
I couldn't believe it. Were beans and motherfuckers the only 
goddamned food in those cans or what? You never knew what was in 
your C-Ration cans until you opened them. Looking at those beans 
and motherfuckers again was not a pretty sight, but you couldn't 
take another C-Ration box, and you had to eat what you were given. 
Fuck me! So I forced myself to eat what I had in front of me, but 
miraculously, one of the other cans contained the highly sought after 
can of sliced peaches in peach juice, and I hungrily wolfed them 
down right out of the can. What a lucky guy I was. Yeah, right. 
Wonderful, just wonderful. 

As I sat alone on my bunk in the tent smoking a cigarette, I gave 
some heavy thought to what I had been through, and just like I told 
myself about never standing in the rain again on the top of the bluff, 
I really told myself, and put in my weary mind, that I would never, 
ever, go camping or hiking in any woods for the rest of my life. That 
was for damn sure. Goddamned fucking right! 

There was one other debriefing that I had after I returned to the 
JOTC base camp after I had been lost in the jungle. After my 
debriefing with the MSGT, the Cadre squad leader SGT, who was 
our squad leader during both JOTC training sessions, took me aside 
wanting to know why I had left the fall back posidon and didn't wait 
for him to return. I gave him the breakdown, and re-told him the 
whole situation. Then, I asked him why he didn't come back for me 
after so many hours. 

He explained to me that when he left me on the bluff, he went 
out in the bush to locate the ARVNs, making sure they were headed 
in the direction of the valley, and to figure out how long they would 
take. Once he located them, he had stealthily, snuck up on their 
position, staying concealed, right in their midst undetected. He 
gathered information while concealed, that the ARVN rangers were 



312 Bud Monaco 



pretty smart soldiers and had sent out a two-man patrol to scout the 
area ahead of them. The scouts returned, now knowing that their 
present movements would take them right out into the open of the 
valley floor. After getting to know what to expect from the JOTC 
training operations with ambushes, they were not about to get 
snookered again, and were taking all proper tactics and 
measures of precaution to prevent getting fucked over by the 
enemy aggressor force. 

The ARVNs then figured out it was probably going to be an 
ambush site in the open area of the valley, and further figured that the 
aggressors would be somewhere nearby to ambush them. So, they 
temporarily encircled their present position, and set up a defensive 
perimeter, which included the position the SGT was concealed in, 
closing off his avenue of retreat, preventing him from falling back to 
retrieve me from the bluff. 

The ARVNs then sent out flankers to scout for enemy activity 
or ambush sites, and he was unable to fall back from his position 
without being caught. Catching a Cadre SGT would have been a real 
big deal for the ARVNs. Cadre or aggressor force soldiers were all 
fair game. Capturing a Cadre soldier would be a very big prize to 
capture and make him a POW. It would also look real bad for a Cadre 
soldier to get caught, as that had never happened before. 

The ARVNs took their sweet time implementing their new 
mission plan to make sure they were going to make the correct 
adjustments to their movements. The SGT told me that the ARVNs 
took at least two hours or more to do further scouting before they 
decided to continue their mission, close up their perimeter, recover 
their flankers and scouts, and travel to the north, by skirting the 
valley through the jungle instead. That change of plans, and the time 
it took, prevented him from ex-filtrating his concealed position until 
they started making their move to their objective. By now, the night 
had come down before he was able to move out and find his way 
back to our fallback position to retrieve me. 

By the time he finally got back to the fall back position, I was 
nowhere to be found. He said he spent the next three hours looking around 
for me, and then realized that I had to be lost, and he headed back to the 
base camp to notify the command that I was missing in action. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 313 



He then told me he was real proud of me for surviving out in the 
bush and keeping my wits about me. Then he said to me, "You were 
also a total fucking jackoff, and dumb as a fucking rock for not 
staying put. You could have gotten yourself dead out there in 
the jungle on your own without a compass, and not knowing 
v^hich fucking way to go'' 

I sheepishly agreed with him, told him I was sorry to disappoint 
him, and that I would surely never do that again. He further said, 
"Better men and more experienced soldiers than you had not fared as 
well under very similar conditions. You were very lucky. It was 
a good thing that you learned your training well, and you were in top 
physical condition, or you would still be out there somewhere in the 
jungle lost, or with a real good chance, dead. I've seen soldiers get 
their asses in slings the same way you did, with much worse 
consequences, both in combat in Vietnam and in training sessions 
here at JOTC." With that, he dismissed me, and that was the fmal 
debriefing I had to deal with. 

In retrospect, as I am wrifing this book, remembering those days 
at JOTC with the Special Forces Green Berets, I have been watching 
TV on the Military Channel, a new series called, 'Making The Cut.' 
This series is made up of segments of advanced military training for 
soldiers to be selected, and attending the separate, elite units of the 
military, such as Army Special Forces Green Berets, Marine Force 
Recon, Army Ranger School, Navy Seal Special Warfare School, 
and the elite units I have previously mentioned in earlier chapters. 
Last night I watched the segment, 'Two Weeks In Hell,' which was 
the selection process for Special Forces Green Beret candidates to 
try to complete their training and become a Green Beret. Holy shitl 
Talk about having your ass and hrmns pounded into the ground. What 
those candidates had to go through and endure was unbelievable. 
Out of the original three hundred candidates that started the training 
session, less than one hundred of them were left that survived the 
cut. Absolutely amazing what the candidates had to endure to succeed. 

As I have also mentioned, and feel I should mention again, the 
JOTC aggressor detail, and any other training I had gone through, 
was not even close to the unbelievable, body-crushing, 
mind-destroying, endurance training that soldiers had to endure, and 



314 Bud Monaco 



succeed, at 'making the cut,' to become part of those eUte military 
units. Not even close. 

Even with the shit and traumas I had to endure, I continue to 
hold in the highest regard with great sincerity, my utmost respect 
and compliments to soldiers, both who have served in the past, and 
those who are now serving. They are second to none and the finest 
warriors in any Armed Forces anywhere in the world, hands down. 
They have in the past and continue this day to make Americans proud 
of them, keeping America free. Our lives, homes, and beds are safe 
because Men of Honor stand in harm's way, on guard for 
us, from those that would bring us harm. I salute you all 
with Honor and Dignity. 

A few hours later, I heard the rest of the guys approaching the 
tent, and they were all hooting and hollering with big smiles on their 
faces, as they had been on the last mission of the JOTC training 
rotation. They were all too busy stripping down naked, heading down 
the slope into Gatun Lake to bathe, and didn't pay me but a bit of 
notice, other than a smart remark from one of them, "Hey, jungle 
boy. Hope ya' didn't get lost looking for the shit can this morning." 
Upon returning, they all gathered around my bunk, and started 
asking me all the same questions they had been asking the night 
before. It took me over an hour to tell my story, and when I took off 
my fatigue shirt to show them the color of my skin and the mess that 
my body was in, they all were laughing their asses off. I didn't really 
find it funny at all, and told them to all go fuck themselves. Then we 
all started laughing together. 

The night came down once more, with us all kicking back in 
our bunks. After a few smokes and some jive talking bullshit, we all 
went to sleep. Waking up at first call, before the first light of day, we 
all cleaned up, started to secure our gear, packed up our duffle bags, 
and were ready to roll out of the god-forsaking jungle. We were real 
anxious to load up and get rolling back to Fort Sherman for some hot 
showers and hot food. But to our dismay, that would still be hours away. 

First, we had to police up our tent area, tighten up the tent poles, 
tent support ropes and, of course, there was one last shit-burning 
detail that had to be done. When our SGT started handing out the 
details, before he said a word, I said, 'T sure as shit ain't going on no 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 315 



shit-burning detail, Sarge. I've paid my fucking dues around here 
this time around." He knew it, and told me to go help to secure some 
tent ropes, turned to Louie, who was sneakily trying to fade into the 
background knowing that his number was up this time, and said, 
"You're up. Private Sucker. You and Jonesy grab your entrenching 
tools, a can of diesel fuel, some matches, and get your asses over to 
the shit-can and get burning. Right now, on the double." Louie didn't 
say a word, and he and Jonesy, who started into one of his bitching 
rants, headed down the path to the shit-can location. Fuck them. 
I didn't feel a bit sorry for either one of them. 

It took us about two hours to get everything back to accepted 
order. When the work was inspected, standing up to proper standards 
by our SGT, we gathered up our gear and weapons, and mustered up 
in formation in front of the JOTC HQ tent. 

The Green Beret CO and MSGT walked over to our loose 
formation, and our SGT quickly called us to attention. The SGT 
saluted the CO and shouted out, 'Aggressor Force Detail, all present 
and accounted for, sir!" The CO returned the salute and told us to, 
"Stand at ease, men." He then told us that he and all the JOTC Cadre 
were very proud to have had us serving with them over the past four 
weeks, and that we were the finest aggressor force detail he had the 
pleasure of commanding. His pleasure, surely not ours, we were all 
thinking. He then said to us that what we had been told and led to 
believe was incorrect. Any unwarranted expectations that we would 
be presented with JOTC patches and designated awards for 
completing the course would not be awarded to us. That was due to 
the fact that we were not officially assigned to the JOTC 
training course. We were only assigned as an aggressor force 
detail and not as trainees. 

Although we would not officially be awarded the coveted blue 
and white Jungle Expert distinctive patch, the CO went through our 
formation from soldier to soldier and personally shook each soldier's 
hand, handing a Jungle Expert patch to each one of us. He further 
stated that we were absolutely not authorized to wear the patch at 
any time on any of our Army clothes. It was just a token of his 
appreciation. He said if it were up to him, we would be awarded the 
patch, but he could only give everyone a patch gratuitously to thank 



316 Bud Monaco 



us for a job well done. Nice, but no cigar. 

He continued on, telling us we would be receiving letters of 
appreciation, signed by him, on Special Forces and JOTC stationary 
that would become part of our permanent records in our Army 201 
files. Nice. Still not a cigar, but at least a light on a cigarette. Upon 
concluding his farewell speech, he told us he was highly 
recommending to our CO and IstSGT for all of us to be awarded 
three-day passes once we arrived back at Fort Kobbe. Nicer yet, but 
we just wished he would shut the fuck up and dismiss us so we 
could load up into the waiting deuce and half truck and get 
the fuck out of there. 

Finally, the MSGT sharply called us to attention. The CO 
saluted us, smartly did an about face, and walked away. The MSGT 
shouted out, "Aggressor detail, dismissed] Fall out! Get your useless 
Fort Kobbe asses out of my JOTC compound, and get your sorry 
butts into the back of that truck, right now on the fucking double! 
I'm tired of looking at your raggedy asses. Get back to Fort Sherman, 
take some hot showers, and get some hot food to eat." But then, with 
a big grin spreading across his face, above his rock-solid, jutting jaw, 
he nicely said, "Thank you all for your service here at JOTC, 
and good luck to all of you in your future Army careers. 
Now, move out!" 

He didn't have to say it twice, and we were all on the move in 
a quick double-time over to the waiting iruck, flinging our gear in the 
back. We were fighting for position to climb into the truck bed like a 
bunch of little kids in a playground. Fuckin A motherfucker] We 
were done with that JOTC shit and didn't want to spend another 
single minute out here. 

The truck slowly pulled away from the base camp down the dirt 
road, and we all looked out the back of the truck in quiet retrospect, 
silently saying in our minds, good fucking riddance, glad to have 
known 'ya, hope to not see 'ya again in our lifetimes. What a long, 
strange trip it had been. 

Back at Fort Sherman, we scrambled out of the truck and into 
the barracks. We then squared away our gear with a somewhat 
lackluster decent cleaning, and secured our weapons in the Armorer's 
vault. Finally, we were able to hit the showers. We languished in the 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 317 



hot showers, washing the last of the jungle scum from our bodies. It 
was the same cluster-fuck in the showers with only the six shower 
heads, a dozen nut-case soldiers fighting for position under the shower 
heads, playing grab-ass and having a ball. My skin from head to toe 
was still a bright, burnt crimson red, and I was on the receiving end 
of many jokes. Standing under the showers, I stood out like Si freak. 
Without even much of a closer look you could plainly see that 
everyone had numerous bug bites, welts, scratches, bruises, and the 
ubiquitous slivers of Black Palm under their skin. It would be days 
before everyone healed up. 

We then headed down to the mess hall for some much desired 
hot food. Oh, what a joy! The hot food was great. The cooks had 
fixed up a real nice layout of hot food for us with cheeseburgers, 
fries, fried chicken, some small four ounce steak patties, mashed 
potatoes with gravy, and a rack filled with desserts of apple pie, ice 
cream, angel food cake, and plenty of fresh fruits. What sl feast we 
had, and the cooks allowed us to go back through the chow line 
for seconds and thirds. 

It was mid-afternoon by now, and we were told we had the 
option to go into Colon for a few hours if we wanted. None of us 
really felt like loading up in a truck, going downtown, and tramping 
around the barren streets of Colon. So we all just kicked back in our 
bunks and laid around the rest of the afternoon, waiting for the 
dinner mess call, smoking cigarettes, and just shooting the shit, 
grateful for the time off with nothing to do for a change. That was 
just great. Nothing to do. No jungle, no bugs, no mud, and no 
stinking shit-can. We were very happy that we were not at the JOTC 
base camp heading out into the jungle on another mission. That was 
marvelous. Just fucking marvelous. 

Dinner mess call came and went. We spent the rest of the night 
in the barracks. For iht first time in two weeks, we turned in early, 
hit our racks that actually had mattresses, sheets and pillows to sleep 
on, and got some much needed, comfortable sleep. 

The CQ came around for first call the next morning, and we all 
got our shit together quickly, headed down to the mess hall for 
breakfast, still hungrily wolfing down the hot food. As soon as we 
were finished with breakfast, we headed back into the barracks, col- 



318 Bud Monaco 



lected up our gear, turned in our bedding to the supply sergeant, signed 
out our weapons from the Armorer's vault, and mustered up into 
formation out in the company street. There was a deuce and a half 
truck already waiting for us, and it turned out to be one of our bro 
crew drivers from HHC at Fort Kobbe who had driven up to Fort 
Sherman early that morning to drop off another JOTC aggressor force 
detail of soldiers from Fort Clayton that we didn't know. He was 
going to take us back to Fort Kobbe for the return trip. 

The newly-detailed soldiers were standing in formation next to 
us, and we had absolutely zero sympathy for the shit they were 
heading into. Fuck theml We did some jive talking with them across 
our formations as they were asking us what the detail was all about. 
We told them that they were in for a world of shit for the next two 
weeks, and it was not going to be pretty at all. They were all fearfully 
looking at us v/iih forlorn looks on their faces as we described some 
of the shit they were going to have to deal with and continued 
laughing our asses off at them. 

We fucked with them real good, putting the fear of god into 
them without remorse, knowing that we were finished, and they were 
not even started yet with the shit they were going to be in for the next 
two weeks. Soldiers could be heartless, reveling in that kind of trash 
talk to the max, and we were totally enjoying it, much to the new 
detail's distress. The new soldiers were n6>^ enjoying it. We all shouted 
out in unison to them, "It's just another day in the Army!" 

Much to our enjoyment, the truck driver had another one of our 
bro crew pals riding shotgun, without an officer or senior NCO riding 
with him to watch over us. We still had our mortar platoon NCOIC 
who was with us for the whole nine yards at JOTC, but he didn 7 
really give a rat's ass about what we did, as long as we didn't get him 
in trouble for any stupid soldier antics. He was a two-digit midget 
short timer, and would be getfing out of the Army real soon. 

Even much more to our enjoyment, the driver handed one of the 
guys a small leather pouch that contained some Panama Red and a 
pack of rolling papers, as we were dismissed from the formation and 
were loading up into the bed of the truck. Oh baby, it was going to be 
a real nice ride back across the Isthmus, and we knew the driver 
would take his sweet time in getting back to Fort Kobbe to kill off as 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 319 



much of the day as possible. We all shouted out some further words 
of wisdom and taunts to the new detail of soldiers still standing in 
formation as the truck pulled away and headed out of Fort Sherman. 
It couldn't have been soon enough. That was for damn sure. 

Turned out the truck bed did not have a canopy cover over it as 
usual, leaving us to take the three hour or so ride in the open air. As 
soon as we cleared the front gate at Fort Sherman, one of the guys 
busted into the pouch, crushed up some of the buds and rolled a 

Johnson. It was amazing to see 
the guy do that with the wind 
whipping through the open canopy, 
not spilling a flake, rolling up 
a couple of perfect Johnsons 
for us to smoke. 

None of us had smoked a 
single puff for the past four weeks, 
and the first hits off the Johnsons 
had us all stoned quickly. It was 
great, and we were having the time 
of our lives in the back of that truck as the driver barreled down the 
road. With the jungle on either side of the road, in clear view to us 
through the open canopy, with the wind whipping over us, it never 
looked so nice, as long as we were not out there in the shit. 
It was a real nice and uneventful ride back. We enjoyed it like we 
were tourists on a vacation. 

We stopped once along a stretch of road about half way back 
where there was a small village that had a small, wood-framed, 
thatched, cat-and-dog, or I should say, a sloth-and-iguana, hot dog 
stand of sorts on the side of the road. We all pooled our dough 
together, bought some hot dogs, and the hootch vendor had a straw 
basket filled with ice and cold Coca-Cola. Where he got the ice out in 
the middle of the interior was a big mystery to us. There wasn't an 
electric line anywhere between here and the outskirts of Panama City. 
Those people were still living in the Stone Age, but they had ice. 
And, who knew what the hot dogs were made of, but we ate them up, 
drank the ice cold Cokes with enjoyment, and were back in the truck 
moving further on down the road. 




320 Bud Monaco 



Passing through Panama City and Balboa, across the Bridge Of 
The Americas, and through the front gates of our base, the truck pulled 
up in front of the HHC building and our own barracks at Fort Kobbe. 
It was a sight for sore eyes and was sure nice to be back. 

It was late afternoon by now, and we clambered out of the truck 
with our gear and duffle bags and mustered up into a loose formation 
with our SGT taking a final head count. 1 stSGT Reymeres and SSGT 
Packardie met us out in the company street. Top told us to first clean 
our weapons, turn them into the Armorer's vault, put on some clean 
fafigues, and shine our boots. Then we would be able to fall out for 
dinner mess call, and have the rest of the night off. He said that he 
had heard that we did a fine job during our aggressor detail at JOTC 
from the JOTC Cadre and he would debrief us the next morning. He 
further said that he was real proud of us for a real tough job done 
very well in the finest Army tradition, and that we had made 
ourselves and HHC look real good in the eyes of the Battalion CO 
and our HHC CO. He also said to me, "We heard you got lost out 
there, Monaco. What the hell happened to you? They had notified 
the CO and me that the whole Battalion of the 4'*" and the 10'^ was out 
in the field looking for you, and they even scrambled choppers out of 
Fort Clayton for the search and rescue." 

All I could say to him was, "I hope it never happens again in my 
lifetime." He then said, "Why is your face, neck, arms, and hands so 
bright beet-red?" I could only sheepishly say, "It's a long story. Top, 
but I'm still alive." Top, SSGT Packardie, and the rest of the guys all 
had a good laugh at my expense. I would be hearing about my 
adventure in the jungle for weeks on end, but eventually it would pass. 

Top told us to fall out. We cleaned and returned our weapons to 
the Armorer's vault, ran up the stairs onto our barracks floor, quickly 
cleaned up, took showers, put on clean fatigues, and headed down to 
the mess hall for another hot dinner. 

It was a long and arduous detail, and we were glad it was over. 
We were looking forward to utilizing our promised three day passes 
over the upcoming weekend with great anticipation. The coming week 
would bring about the Christmas season. We knew that all the lifers 
would be vacafing the Fort, and our work schedule would be light. 
That was a nice thing to look forward to. We also would receive our 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 321 

pay, and would have some money back in our pockets to spend. Once 
the New Year came the following week, we could all gladly say good 
goddamned riddance to 1969. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 323 



Chapter 43 

A New Year 

"I fl/TO c^^^ to P^^^ ^ith ^ f^^ different life happenings. 
A>^U>^ It was an overall odd feeling to spend Christmas away 
from home for the first time. No Christmas cheer, no snow, no 
Christmas trees, no Christmas decorations, and no Christmas gift 
sharing. Christmas was a weird animal while serving in the Army as 
it was mostly just like any other day. No real holiday festivities going 
on at all in the barracks on an Army base overseas to speak of. The 
lifers who had their families living in base housing or off base 

locations probably had a 
Christmas thing going on, but 
not the same for us in 
the barracks. So, the days of 
Christmas came and went 
without much thought. There 
were no days off for any such 
Christmas break. We were given 
Christmas day off, but some guys still had to stand guard duty and 
charge of quarters duty. Other than that, it was pretty much 
just another day in the Army. 

New Year's Eve was pretty much the same. No real 
celebrations, no ball dropping like in Times Square, no big parties 
with lots of booze and food. We only had a pretty small reserved 
moment at midnight with our bro crew and some of the juicers, 
sharing difew moments together to ring in the New Year. As we were 
celebrating the New Year, we all made a pact to have a smoke or a 
drink every year after to remember the time we were spending 
together, and to call each other on the phone every New Years Eve. 
That never happened except for one or two guys who I stayed in 
touch with during the following years. 

There was one unique thing that happened between Christmas 
and New Years with the girl I left back home flying down to Panama 
from Chicago with her mother to visit me. It turned out to be a real 
nice time. Utilizing two of my three-day passes, I was able to use 
them back-to-back, and get to spend six days with my girl and her 
mother. We had a great time. 




324 Bud Monaco 



I met them the day after they arrived in Panama City at a nice, 
high rise hotel right in the heart of Panama City, and the room they 
had on the twenty-ninth floor overlooked a large portion of the city 
with a real nice view. The hotel also had an outside pool that we 
spent some time enjoying. It was a treat for me to see someone from 
back in the world, and I was so glad that they had made the trip. They 
had rented a car, and had travel books with all the tourist sites and 
information in it. So every day we travelled around Panama 
City, into the Panama Interior a bit, the Canal Zone, and the 
Panama Canal visitor's centers. 

They were sites and places I was unaware of, and might have 
never seen or visited on my own. One day, we walked the streets of 
downtown and stopped in all 
the duty-free shops, also 
eating in some of the many 
restaurants available. On 
another day, we took a 
two-hour drive into the 
Panama Interior and went to 
see Madden Dam. Madden 
Dam was a gigantic dam 
engineered and built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. 
They had reversed the flow of the Chagres River in order to create 
Gatun Lake during the excavation and building of the Panama Canal 
between the years of 1904 to 1914. Madden Dam was built and 
completed in 1935 to create Madden Lake, and was also a 
hydro-electric dam that provided electric power to Panama City, 
Colon, Balboa, the Canal Zone, and the Panama Canal itself. It was 
a huge dam and a beautiful sight to see. 

On another day, we located and visited the ruins of Old Panama 
City, which was one of the first cities built in Central America in 
1519. Old Panama City was located just a mile or so north of the 
present day Panama City, and was the major hub of commerce and 
travel in the Caribbean during those early days of civilization in 
Central America. The ruins of Old Panama City were mostly old, 
hand-hewed stone, destroyed structures, with only a few that had 
been preserved and still standing. That was all that remained of that 








DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 325 



historic site. Morgan the Pirate had attacked, sacked and destroyed 
Old Panama City back in 1671. The new Panama City was 
founded a few years later in 1673. 

During another day, we drove into the Canal Zone and toured 
the visitor's center at the Panama Canal's Miraflores Locks system. 
There was a small museum in the center that was loaded with 
historical information and artifacts, which was in the same building 
that the canal engineers operated the locks from. Tourists were 
allowed to pass through and visit the control room to see the 
engineers operating the locks. There was a separate viewing station 
room that overlooked the lock system with a commanding view of 

the locks and their operations, 
while gigantic ocean liners, oil 
tanker ships, and cargo ships 
traversed through the locks. It was 
hard to believe, even with actually 
seeing those gigantic ships fitting 
into the narrow spaces between the 
lock walls, that there was enough 
space for the ships to pass. 
It was an amazing feat of 
engineering and very impressive. 

Later that day, we found our way to what is known as the Gaillard 
Cut. It was a location, not far across the Canal from the Miraflores 
Locks, which was the highest point of elevation in Panama, which 
was an immense solid rock formation that the Army Engineers had 
to excavate through the Continental Divide, using tons of dynamite 
and thousands of laborers to make a passageway for the Panama 
Canal. Standing high above, on what was left of the mountain, it had 
a commanding view of the canal waterway over two hundred feet 
below. During the time we spent there we saw at least a half-dozen 
ships passing through the canal below us. It was one of the largest 
feats of engineering of its time. It was a real nice place to visit, and 
I would go back there with some of the guys a couple of times during 
the many months ahead. 

One of the following days, we visited a large tropical 
forest-jungle reserve called Parque Metropolitano. Along the five trails 




326 Bud Monaco 




of that convenient park, we saw a diversity of tropical vegetation and 
wildlife, including toucans, parakeets, orioles, trogons, sloths, and 
monkeys. I had a few flashbacks about my time out in the jungle at 
JOTC, but repressed them so I could enjoy the visit to the park. It 
was just another of the many mostly unknown sights in and around 

Panama City. It was quite the 
viewing experience as we had a 
wonderful time there and enjoyed 
it immensely. 

Before their visiting days in 
Panama came to an end, on one of the 
final days of their trip, we drove across 
The Bridge Of The Americas, and 
I took them to see Fort Kobbe, Kobbe 
Beach, and Howard Air Force Base. 
During the time we were at Fort Kobbe, I made sure that some of the 
guys were introduced to my girl and her mother, mainly trying to be 
a big shot, and showing off my great looking lady from back in the 
States. All the guys were impressed that I had such a fine looking 
woman back home in Chicago. 

Although there were quite a few 
American women in Panama, we never 
were able to get close to any of them, 
as most of them were Army wives and 
daughters, called dependents, and 
were absolutely off limits for any 
American soldiers. But, that didn't 
always stop a few GIs from banging 
some lifer's teenage daughters. It did 
keep it to a minimum though. So, it was a real treat for some of the 
guys to be able to get a close up look at an American woman. I was 
King Shit the Ragman for a little while, and I reveled in it for sure, 
making the most of the moments that I could. 

The day my girl and her mother had to leave Panama came much 
too soon for my liking. The days had quickly passed by. After our 
last night together in Panama City, they drove me back to Fort Kobbe, 
and with tearful good-byes, kisses, and hugs all around, we said 




DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 327 



farewell for now, and they were off on their way, headed back to 
Panama's Tocumen International Airport for their flight back to 
Chicago. It was a real sad moment for me, shattering the wonderful 
time I was having, but I just had to pull up my boot straps and soldier 
on. I had no further choice in the matter. It was a wonderful 
experience, but it was now back to the reality that was my Army life. 
Damn. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 329 



Chapter 44 

Bad Decisions 

''If You Ain 7 Confused About the War In Vietnam. 
The Situation Is Not Understood.'' 

January, 1970, brought about the normal routines of Army 
garrison and training life. All the same routines continued on 
a daily basis with early morning first calls, barracks cleaning, 
morning formations, reveille, physical training doing the daily dozen, 
and the ball-busting run to Kobbe Beach and back to the battalion 
area, all done before breakfast mess call. 

The routines of the day continued with working in the 
4.2" Mortar Platoon bay, doing the daily cleaning of the big guns and 
bay area, cleaning and maintaining our personal weapons and 
combat gear. Guys were detailed out for guard duty or charge of 
quarters duty daily, and there was allocated time for everyone to get 
haircuts, swap out dirty bedding for clean bedding from the Supply 
room, taking care of dirty laundry, going on sick call with 
unnecessary visits to get out of scut details, Motor Pool vehicle 
maintenance, and visiting the on-base tailor as needed. There were 
training movie sessions that we had to watch and attend, as well as 
other barracks maintenance to be done, such as painting, fixing things 
that were broke, and major, over the top, latrine GI cleaning parties. 
The fucking lifers wanted the barracks and latrines as clean as a show 
cat's ass. They were relentless in their pursuit of cleanliness. 
Everyone tried to fmd ways to do as much ghosting as they could get 
away with, on a constant basis, the second an opportunity presented 
itself, and the platoon sergeant wasn't around to keep watch over 
everyone doing their prescribed duties and details. 

The ghosting became quite the challenge, but there was no 
obstacle that inventive soldiers could not overcome to find 
new ways to ghost and fuck off constantly, with new ghosting 
tactics learned every day. 

The rest of the weeks of January and February continued with 
all the same Army routines. During those weeks, a few soldiers got 
fed up with the routines, the constant, nit-picking Army bullshit a 
soldier had to deal with on a daily basis, and requested transfers to 



330 Bud Monaco 



go to Vietnam. It was not easy to request and be transferred from one 
non-combat duty station to another, but any soldier's request to be 
transferred to the Vietnam combat zone was processed very quickly 
through the Command and the Personnel office. 

Two guys from HHC decided to put in for a transfer to Vietnam. 
One of them was a bro crew guy from Nebraska. We told those two 
soldiers that they were crazy to request a transfer to Vietnam as we 
had it pretty good right where we were. We had to deal with all the 
Army garrison shit, but at least no one was shooting at us and trying 
to kill us. A couple of Vietnam combat veterans in our unit told them 
in no uncertain words, "You guys are absolutely fucking stupid nuts 
to request a transfer to Vietnam!" They further told those guys, "You 
don't have a single fucking clue as to what you're getting into. It is 
totally fucked up over there. You will seriously regret what you are 
requesting once you have boots on the ground in Vietnam." 

All that talk did nothing to persuade those soldiers from putting 
in their requests for transfer, and within less than two weeks they 
were shipped out of Fort Kobbe and on their way to Vietnam. 

We stayed in touch with two of the guys with letter writing for 
the next few weeks, and unfortunately, we heard from one of them, 
only three weeks later, and he wrote to us telling us that the other guy 
from our unit had gotten shot and killed in action during a Viet Cong 
ambush on hi^ first combat mission out in the jungles of Vietnam. 
That was real shocking and sad news for us to hear, and no one else 
of the bro crew in HHC even gave a second thought about requesting 
a transfer to Vietnam after that. The war in Vietnam was winding 
down, but American boys were still taking hits and dying over there. 
It would be a few more years until American servicemen were no 
longer spilling their blood in Southeast Asia. 

I also received a letter from my mother in January, and she told 
me that one of my best friends, Kenny Perry, had been killed in 
Vietnam. It was very sad news to hear, and I felt real bad for a while 
thinking about my friend who was now dead. Kenny was a sergeant 
in the Marines, and was on his second combat tour in Vietnam. If he 
didn't re-enlist and just finished up his first hitch, he would have 
been back home safe after his first combat tour. But Kenny became a 
real gung-ho Marine lifer, got a nice promotion to sergeant with his 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 331 

new re-enlistment, and requested to go back to Vietnam for a second 
tour. I guess he died doing what he wanted to do, but I was pretty 
sure he didn't expect to get killed doing it the second time around. 
RIP Kenny. I'll always remember you, brother. 

There were numerous other soldiers transferring and rotating in 
and out of Fort Kobbe. Some of them were Vietnam veterans 
choosing Panama as their next duty station. Panama was high on the 
list of duty station requests for both career soldiers and drafted 
soldiers who still had time left in the Army after their twelve month 
tour of duty in Vietnam. Assignments to Panama were highly 
requested because the weather was nice and warm compared to 
Korea, Germany or Alaska, and there was plenty of party action with 
all the booze, dope, and women readily available in Panama. Duty 
stations in Army posts in the U. S. were a pain in the ass with 
too many rigorous, petty-ass regulations to contend with, and a lot of 
green-ass officers and NCOs, with little or no Army experience, who 
a combat veteran could not stand to take useless orders from after 
serving under fire in Vietnam. Although it was a lot like at Fort Kobbe. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now ! 333 



Chapter 45 

''The Revolution Of My Mind Begins. 
Let's Rock And Roll Motherfuckers! " 

With new troops arriving and being assigned to HHC at Fort 
Kobbe, the previous recently-assigned soldiers like some of 
us, were finally no longer the FNG cherries. It was a small passing 
victory for us, but a very big victory, to say the least. Those days 
were the last vestiges of being a FNG. We were now becoming part 
of the old guy's network, but not completely over the hump just yet. 
It was still nice not to be one of the FNGs any longer. Real nice. 

One of the FNGs that arrived at Fort Kobbe was a hippie from 
New Jersey. He had been at the Woodstock Music Festival in the 
summer of '69, and he brought a big stack of new rock and roll 
music albums with him that just blew us away. We were still unaware 
of the new music revolution that was passing us by back in the World, 
and the new music he brought to Fort Kobbe quickly took us into the 
new world of modern rock and roll music. This music took over our 
minds and brought us into a brave new world of music and life 
styles. We totally immersed ourselves into the new music and 
couldn't get enough of it. 

The music albums he brought were Grand Funk Railroad, Led 
Zeppelin, The Doors, Pink Floyd, Alvin Lee and Ten Years After, 
The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Black Sabbath, the new 
Beatles album Abbey Road, the new Rolling Stones albums Beggars 
Banquet and Let It Bleed, Jimi Hendrix, Crosby, Stills and Nash, 
The Guess Who, The Who, Joe Cocker, Traffic, King Crimson, The 
Moody Blues, Isaac Hayes, and Cream. 

Hearing all that new music was just fantastic and was 
life-altering for me, as well as the other guys. We would never be the 
same with the dawn of the new age of music, giving us all a new 
perspective in our lives. We spent hours and hours on end, sitting 
around the barracks every chance we could listening intently to the 
new music. We were having the time of our lives and enjoying it 
immensely. That new music totally rocked our world. 

When I first saw the Grand Funk Railroad album cover, with 
the lead guitarist and vocalist Mark Farner's long, waist-length hair 



334 Bud Monaco 



flowing across the artwork, I told myself right then and there that 
I was going to grow my hair long like that when I got out of the 
Army, get back into playing my drums, and become a rock and roll 
star. It became my new direction in life that I absolutely followed 
from the day I got out of the Army in 1971, for the past forty years, 
and right up to the present day. I went the whole nine yards, and the 
music business became my way of life completely, with no regrets. 
But that is a story for another time. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 335 

Chapter 46 

More Lessons Learned 

Looking to enjoy the times we had off-duty, there were 
continuing excursions to downtown Panama City. One of 
the guys had told us about a nice place called Rancho Deluxe. It was 
«6>^ a juke joint in the main downtown GI hangouts on the infamous 
K Street, and was located in a nicer part of Panama City. It was 
a somewhat conservative dance hall where they played American 
music, you could have a few drinks, and there were local girls, not 
hookers, you could dance with. The joint had older Panamanian 
women that were chaperones, watching over the young women, 
keeping a real close eye on all the GIs that frequented the place. 

It was a large one-story building that was used for weddings, 
family get-togethers, neighborhood meetings, and was used as a 
local dance hall on Friday and Saturday nights. It was a 
pretty reserved place compared to the wild and decadent juke 
joints on K Street. 

Unbeknownst to us, the dance hall was a place for young 
Panamanian women to meet an American GI, start to date him, with 
the main underlying intention of the women to fmd an American 
man to fall in love with her, marry her, and take her back to America. 
That was definitely not on the agenda of any GI. 

/ found out about that only after I had met a woman, had a few 
drinks with her, danced with her during the evening, and she had 
made some suggestions to me in broken English that I didn't 
properly understand at the time, about me being her boyfriend. 
I figured it was some kind of a ruse, and went along with the 
program. I eventually wound up leaving the dance hall with her to 
go somewhere and have sex. 

Without much fanfare like the whores in the juke joints on 
K Street, she agreed and took me to a small, one-story, motel-like 
joint a block or so away from the dance hall. She was dressed pretty 
conservatively with a nice blouse that wasn't wide open with her tits 
hanging out, and a skirt that came down to her knees without her ass 
cheeks hanging out. She was small, like most Panamanian women, 
with her hair fixed nicely, and wearing limited makeup, making her 
look very pretty. She went into an office type of room and came out 



336 Bud Monaco 



with a key for one of the rooms. The room had a bed with clean sheets, 
and the walls did not go all the way up to the ceiling, leaving about a 
two foot space between the top of the walls and the ceiling, which I 
found odd, but didn't give it much thought. 

So, we started making out, and eventually did the deed. 
Nothing like the wacky, bang, bang, thank you ma'am sex with the 
whores, and it was real nice and comfortable. After a while, I told her 
I should get back to meet up with my friends at the dance hall, and I 
would have to be heading back to our base. She then said to me, "OK 
GI, now you come back to see me, meet my parents and marry meT 

I looked at her in amazement and quickly said, ''Whoa now, 
slow down there lady. You're moving way too fast. There ain't gonna 
be any marrying going on with me anytime soon." She looked at me 
in disbelief and said, "You make love to me, now you have to marry 
me." I said, "That ain't the way it plays out with me lady, and I'm the 
hell out of here." With that, I quickly finished putting my clothes 
back on and high-tailed it out of there real fast. I sure didn't want to 
suffer the emotional backlash of a woman scorned. Arriving back at 
the dance hall, I found out that my buddies had split the joint and 
were long gone, leaving me to my own devices to find my 
way back to Fort Kobbe. 

I walked out of the joint, found my way a few blocks away to a 
busier street, hailed a hootch cab, and headed back to Fort Kobbe. 
The whole episode turned out to be a real trip that I would not be 
repeating anytime in the near future, that was for sure. 

Back in the barracks, the guys I had gone downtown with started to 
straggle back in, and one of the old timers coyly asked me what had gone 
on when I left the dance hall with the woman as the other guys quiedy 
chuckling in the background. I told them what happened, then they all 
started laughing their asses off at me, as they knew what the routine at the 
dance hall was, and they had set me up real good, enjoying their sneaky 
deceit in not clueing me in as to what I was getting into in the first place. 
Those fucks. The last laugh was on me. All I could do was laugh at it all 
and enjoy the ruse with them, or be further worked over by those guys for 
a longer period of fime. You could always depend on soldiers to fuck 
over another soldier just to get a good laugh out of it. Nice guys. Yeah, 
right. Just another learning curve you leamed from, if you were smart. I 
always leamed every time, and rarely repeated getting fucked oven 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 337 



Chapter 47 

A Funny Thing Happened: But Not Really Fun. 

''Fighting To Survive In The Jungle Is One Thing. 

Fighting Your Way Out Of A Whorehouse Is Another Thing. 

The Fighting Is Similar 

Just Different Tactics.'' 

''For Survival Sometimes You Have To Fight. 
But Sometimes Fighting Will Get You Dirty.'' 

I had one further encounter with a prostitute in Panama City that 
convinced me not to continue deahng with Panamanian whores 
or women. It just wasn't worth the time, even though, as a horny 
young man, I enjoyed the sex a whole bunch. During a following trip 
on one of the next weekends to downtown Panama City with a few of 
the guys, we were in one of the juke joints on K Street when one of 
the whores approached our table doing her fucky sucky routine. 
I was feeling frisky and horny as hell. So, I took her up on her offer 
and headed out of there with her hanging on my arm. 

We walked off of K Street and into an area a few blocks away 
that I knew to be an off limits area. I told her that, but she assured me 
that it was alright and there were no MPs around the area. That should 
have been the first clue that things would not go as planned. I was 
still unsure of that, but I was letting my little head do the 
thinking instead of using my big head. Turned out not to 
be the correct thinking. 

We came to a doorway, scooted through it and climbed up a 
long flight of un-painted, beat-to-shit, worn-down stairs. The place 
reeked of piss, puke, and garbage. Down the hallway at the top of the 
stairs, she opened an unlocked door and we went inside. We were in 
a decent-sized living room. The place seemed to be an apartment 
rather than a hotel room, and there was a GI sitting on a couch with a 
whore. The music was pretty loud, there was also about a half-dozen, 
young Panamanian men in the room. Some of them were just 
standing around drinking, and some of them were dancing together. 
With a closer look at the men, they looked like queers as they all 
were wearing heavy makeup with thick eye-liner, lots of eye shadow, 
red lipstick, and they all had big earrings dangling from their ears. 



338 Bud Monaco 



They all had weird hairdoos, wearing feminine leather and lace 
clothes. That got my attention real fast, and I did not like the scene 
one bit. But, my little head was still doing the thinking as the whore 
pulled me through the room and into a bedroom down the hall. 

The room was small with a single bed and had a window 
overlooking the inside courtyard of the building. Outside the 
window, which had louvered, wooden shutters, was a small balcony 
with an iron railing around it. Around each floor of the building, just 
below the windows, there was a two foot wide concrete ledge that 
was part of the structure. The lights in the room were off and the 
room was barely lit by the glow coming in from the courtyard. 

Weirdly, as the usual routine would be, the whore did not ask 
me for the money before we started. While we were doing the deed, 
she kept trying to keep my head and face away from the end of the 
bed near the window. I had put my dough and ID inside one of my 
shoes, stuffing my socks into my shoes. I had taken out a twenty 
dollar bill, put it in the pocket of my pants to pay her with, before 
I took my pants off, and hanging them over the end of the bed frame. 
While we were getting busy in the dark room, I swore that I felt 
someone was in the room with us, but every time I tried to look up 
and around, the whore would move over me so I couldn't see. Then 
I heard some movement, and I knew that someone was in the room 
with us. Before I could get out of the bed, I was sure I saw someone 
moving out on the balcony. So I pushed her off of me, went to the 
window to look out there, and I just caught a glimpse of someone 
climbing back into a window further along the concrete ledge. Now 
I was certain that one of those queer pimp cocksuckers had come in 
the room through the window to rob me. I was concerned at first, 
but then I got real pissed off. 

I found a light switch, turned on the overhead light, and I could 
plainly see that my pants were on the floor now with my pockets 
turned inside out, my wallet laying on the floor open, and the twenty 
bucks that was in my pants pocket was gone. I turned to her as I was 
grabbing my pants off the floor and pulling them on and I said, "You 
fucking whore. You and your pimp robbed me," as I continued to put 
on the rest of my clothes. She said, "No, no, GI, no one robbing you." 

When I reached for my shoes and socks, I couldn't find one of 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 339 



my socks after putting the first sock and shoe back on, so I just put 
the other shoe on my foot without the other sock, put my shirt back 
on, and quickly buttoned it up. As I started to open the door of the 
room the whore said, "Hey, GI, you pay me twenty dollar for fucky 
sucky." I said, "Fuck you and your pimp. I ain't paying you anything. 
Your pimp stole the twenty dollars out of my pocket." I started to go 
out the door of the room with her, still naked, grabbing hold of my 
arm. I broke her grip on my arm and pushed her back. As I reached 
the front room, she was still pulling at my arm and yelling out, "He 
no pay, he no pay," and the queers all surround me, blocking my way 
to the front door. There was a different GI sitting on the couch with 
another whore, and I said to him, "Hey, brother, this whore and her 
pimps just robbed me. How about giving me some help here." He 
was stinking drunk, looked up at me from the couch and said, "Tough 
shit, man, that ain't my problem. You're on your own." I said back at 
him, "You jackoff, I hope they rob your ass real good. Fuck you." 

Then, I quickly look around, taking in my surroundings in the 
room. There are only two small queers between me and the door, and 
I said, "Fuck this and fuck you queers," and in a flash, without a 
second's hesitation, I cold-cocked the closest one on my left, right in 
the jaw. He went down faster than a cheap plastic folding chair at an 
outdoor backyard wedding. The second queer tried to grab hold of 
me, and I nailed him just as hard. He went down just like the first 
queer. Once the path to the door was clear, before the other four 
queers could gang rush me, I yanked open the door, and busted out 
of there in a heartbeat. As I started to double time down the hallway, 
there is another GI walking through with a whore, heading for the 
apartment, and I said to him, "You don't want to go in there. Those 
fucks are thieves and bandits and will try to rob you." He paid little 
attention to what I said as his little head was doing the thinking for 
him, just like mine was before, and I just kept going. I took the stairs 
down two at a time, regrouped myself a bit at the bottom of the stairs, 
pulled open the door and stepped out onto the sidewalk. I looked 
both ways, didn't see anyone walking on either side of the street, and 
started walking back the way I had come from towards K Street. 

And I'll be goddamned! Just before I reach the corner of the 
block, a squad of MPs, APs, and LaGuardia Panamanian Police come 



340 Bud Monaco 



around the corner, and I walk right into them. Fuck me. There were 
six of them, and they immediately stop me, asking me what I was 
doing in the off limits area. I told them that I had gotten lost and was 
trying to find my way back to K Street. They told me that I was full 
of shit as they looked me over closely. One of them said, "If you just 
got lost, why do you only have one sock on, why is your shirt 
buttoned wrong, as I had missed a button hole, and also had buttoned 
another button into the wrong button hole, and why are you sweating 
so heavily?" I could only look at them dumbly not saying a word. 

Then one of them said, "This area is off limits for good reasons 
you dumbass. The whores and pimps in this area are known very 
well for robbing and mugging GIs all the time you stupid fuck." They 
then asked to see my ID and asked what base I was assigned to. 
I showed them the ID and told them I was from Fort Kobbe. Then 
they handed me back my ID, and one of the MPs said, "You are one 
lucky motherfucker tonight, and we ain't gonna arrest you this time. 
But if we ever catch you in this off limits area again, you are going 
straight to the fucking stockade. Now get the fuck out of here, and I 
don't ever want to see your sorry ass around here again, ever!" I 
thanked them, and with no further ado I high-tailed my skinny ass 
out of there, found my way back to the juke joint, and met back 
up with the guys who were still at the juke joint drinking and 
having a swell time. 

After I told them what had happened, they all found it to be just 
hilarious, and were laughing their asses off at me once again. 
Sometimes you just can't win for losing. All I could do was take it on 
the chin and laugh right along with them. I told myself right then and 
there, putting it firmly in my mind, that I would never be getting my 
ass in a sling like that again, and I stuck to my guns about it over the 
following months of my tour of duty in Panama. It was just another 
learning curve that I surely benefited from. Banging babes was 
nice, but dealing with the psychofic elements just wasn't worth it. 
No doubt about it. 

Although it wasn't such a pleasant thing at the fime, it has 
always been a cool story to tell many fimes over during the past years 
about, how I had to fight my way out of a Panamanian whore house. 
Of course, I embellish it more with every telling. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 341 



Chapter 48 

Another Life Altering Situation 

''When In Doubt. 

Just Go With The Flow. 

Damn The Consequences!'' 

There was another memorable time during February that had a 
big impact on me during my first year in Panama. It left an 
indelible memory never to be forgotten. 

Do you remember your first blow? That's the time you put that 
powder up your nose for the first time. Did you get the gag? That's 
the gag you get when that powder hits your sinuses, trails down over 
your upper throat, and down into your esophagus. Oh yeah, some 
of you know what I'm talking about. 

Here's the scene. Downtown Panama City. A low-life, 
back-street hootch juke joint called 'La Cantina de Rojo,' or maybe 
'La Cantina du Muerte,' not too far off of the infamous K-Street in 
the flesh pots of downtown, sin city, Panama City. Absolutely an off 
limits area, and specifically that hootch bar was off limits for all 
military personnel stationed in all of Central America. It was 
sometime around midnight. 

Four American GIs walk in the front door and were looked over 
like you wouldn't believe by the gangster hootches populating the 
joint. We were all wearing American blue jeans, t-shirts, sandals, 
hair cut high-and-tight, and standing out like whores in church. They 
saw us coming blocks down the street. We then walked through the 
very dimly-lit front bar room, that had a worn down wooden floor, 
into a secondary, private, back room bar area, and crammed into a 
booth along the wall. We're there because one of the short timers 
was rotating and going home, and he was trying to acquire some 
Panama Red. He was looking to load up a footlocker full of Red to 
take home to Texas and spread the word. 

A hootch front-man runner came into the back room shortly 
after our arrival, pulled up a chair, sat down and asked us what we 
needed. It was my first time in the joint and it's a trip for sure. Others 
had been that way before. The guy rotating out said he wanted two- 
dozen pounds. The hootch guy was absolutely wired. I didn't know 



342 Bud Monaco 



what wired was then, but I soon found out. The hootch runner soon 
spHt and disappeared. A hootch woman from the front bar came 
over, took our drink order, rum and cola, what else, and brought 
the booze back. 

The wired hootch came back about fifteen minutes later with 
a clean-cut, sharp-dressed boss hootch man. The Panamanian boss 
man was dressed in fine Panamanian fashion, wearing loose 
Guatemalan slacks, a four-pocketed Costa Rican, worn-over-the-belt, 
dress shirt, topped off with a big brim, authentic, Panama Hat. 

The wired hootch crammed into the booth, as the boss hootch 
man sat on a chair pulled up to the booth. He said nothing. The wired 
hootch said everything. While he's talking, he took out a waxed 
paper enveloped bindle from one of his four pockets, and opened it 
up with his hands over the table. My eyes opened wide. What the 
fuck is that? It was the first time I saw the powder. It glistened, it 
shined, and it was amazing to see it like that in its pure form. The 
wired hootch took a matchbook cover, jamming the corner of it into 
the pile of powder, and whiffed it up his nose in one smooth motion. 
He filled up the corner with another mound of powder, leaned his 
hand and arm over to one of the guys, and he whiffed it up his nose, 
then doing the same to the other two guys. He then loads a pile on the 
corner, about a quarter-inch high, right up to my face, and damned 
near right into my nose. I look at the others over the top of the 
matchbook and the hootches hand, and one of the guys said in his 
heavy South Carolina southern drawl, "Go ahead. It'll be OK, and if 
you don't, everything at this booth will change." So I whiffed it up 
just like they all did. Bam! My First Blow. 

I immediately felt a light rush of adrenalin, but not 
overwhelming. Then the first gag started to grab me. It didn't take 
long. Now, I had to go to the pisser to piss, and I felt the gag coming 
on. The toilet facilities in Panama were definitely not up to western 
world standards. Talk about a shit hole. That had to be where the 
name shit hole was coined. The urinal was one, eight foot long, five 
foot high, white ceramic tile trough along a wall, with a water pipe 
across the top with a running stream into the trough that was about 
three inches deep from the step up of tiles you stood on. There was 
no toilet bowl or stall, just a fucking four inch drain hole in the floor 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 343 



over in the corner. It had shit all around the hole, stinking to the high 
heavens of shit, with flies buzzing around as big as baby iguanas 
with wings. I don't remember looking for any toilet paper, but I'm 
sure there wouldn't have been any. 

As I was pissing, I started to really get the gag. At first I gagged 
and controlled it, but then I gagged again as my throat was freezing 
up, my lips were frozen like when the dentist gives you Novocain. 
The next gag really made me gag and I started gasping for air. The 
gag really took over and dropped me to my knees. I was spitting snot 
out of my mouth and gagging at the same time. I lost my balance and 
slipped forward. My head hit the piss wall. I got my hands out in 
front of me, with both palms flat against the piss wall, trying to push 
myself back. With the urinal water running down over my hands and 
splashing into my face, I continued to gag, grasping for breath. 

Then, the wired hootch came in, whipped out his dick, and started 
pissing onto the piss wall right next to me. The wired hootch said to 
me, as he's laughing his ass off, "Hey, hey, gringo, how do you like 
that, GI? Number one best stuff." Eventually he quit pissing and 
laughing at me, and he walked away. I recovered from the gag after 
a few minute's time, but now my hands, arms and knees were 
wet from the urinal water. 

I finally gathered myself up, headed back to the booth, and 
another round of the powder came out again. Bam, bam, bam, bam! 
We all did another blast. I was still reeling from the first blast, and 
thought I was going to start gagging again. Fortunately, I was able to 
control it that time. The short timer finished his talk with the boss 
hootch man, making arrangements for the buy sometime in the 
following days. We blew out of the hootch juke joint, back down a 
few blocks to K Street, and then we headed back to Fort Kobbe. 
What a trip my first blow turned out to be. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 345 



Chapter 49 



Back at Fort Kobbe, during the last weeks of January, and the 
weeks of February, it was pretty much the same Army routines 
of training as usual. During the weeks of February, I learned about 
the upcoming training exercises that our Battalion would be having. 
The training location was located down the coast to the south at a 
gigantic, American military-controlled, field-training base called Rio 
Hato, which also had a full size concrete runway nearby for jets and 
cargo planes to land and take off from. There was a scheduled order 
of operations that each of the three Battalions of the 193rd Infantry 
Brigade would be assigned and be sent out to Rio Hato for a 
three-month period of time during the year. There would usually be 
one full Battalion from the 193rd Infantry Brigade out in the field for 
three months, with a month in between, making it available for the 
Marines, Air Force, and the Navy to conduct their training 
operations. So, at least twice a year, each Battalion would spend three 
months out in the field doing training missions and operations. 

The Rio Hato River was a small river tributary that branched off 
of the larger, nearby Rio Farallion River, and emptied into the 
Pacific Ocean from the interior of Panama. The base was about sixty 
miles south of the Canal Zone and Fort Kobbe. There was also a 
small town called Rio Hato that was a few miles inland from the 
coastline. The Rio Hato base camp bordered right on the Pacific Ocean 
coastline on the east for about five miles, and to the west and a bit 
north, it covered many miles of open scrub-land and triple canopy 
jungle, with a few rivers cutting their way through the area. The 
Bay Of Panama and the Pacific Ocean were to the east, due to the 
unique geographical position and angle of the Isthmus Of Panama. 
The coast line from the Pacific side of the canal, down to this area, is 
the only place in the world where the sun actually rises over the 
Pacific Ocean. Oh joy. More triple canopy jungle to play around in. 

So, during the last weeks of February, our HHC, and the whole 
Battalion, including all three line companies, were gearing up and 
getting ready to leave Fort Kobbe for the next three months. The 3rd 
Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, including every swing dick soldier 
of all ranks from the Battalion CO Colonel to the lowest ranking 



346 Bud Monaco 



private with just about every piece of clothing issued, combat gear, 
weapons, every last piece of equipment, trucks, jeeps, heavy 
equipment vehicles, 4.2" mortars, heavy weapons and artillery, would 
be on the way to Rio Hato. The operation meant everyonel 
No exceptions. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 347 



Chapter 50 

Rio Hato: Back Into The Shit 

'If You Don 7 Like The Tropic Weather In Panama. 
Tough Shit: It Ain't Gonna Changed' 

The first week of March, 1970, had now arrived, and we had a 
very early, pre-dawn first call. Everyone was up breaking down 
their bedding to be turned into the Supply room. We did a fast 
clean-up of the barracks, grabbed our stuffed-full duffel bags, which 
we had packed the night before, put on our combat gear, checked out 
our weapons from the Armorer's vault, and fell out into the company 
street for roll call and reveille. We then had a real fast breakfast mess 
call. As soon as we were finished, the vehicle drivers headed to the 
Motor Pool to get the vehicles, while the rest of us went to the 
4.2" Mortar bay to prepare the big guns and equipment for 
loading into the trucks. 

Once the trucks returned from the Motor Pool, we loaded the 
guns and equipment into them along with our gear, duffle bags and 
weapons. The action was hot and heavy going on throughout the 
Battalion. All the HHC platoons were loading up their trucks also, 
with the soldiers across the street at Battalion HQs doing the same. 

All three line Companies, A, B, and C, had their deuce and a 
half transport trucks lined up in front of their respected barracks 
buildings, loading them up with equipment and soldiers, while 
officers and sergeants were shouting out orders with machine gun 
efficiency. It was an amazing sight to see with over a hundred 
military vehicles of all sizes and shapes taking up just about every 
foot of concrete available on the battalion streets, with a thousand 
soldiers in full combat gear loading up for the big convoy, preparing 
to roll out in full force to Rio Hato. 

Within less than two hours, the battalion convoy was given the 
order by the Battalion CO shouting out, and the Battalion sergeant 
major repeating his command with even a louder voice, "Battalion! 
Move out!" With a deafening roar of truck and jeep engines firing 
up, and the grinding sounds of vehicles being put into gear, the 
convoy started to roll out. As before, during the Combat Alert, there 
was an exact, prescribed, by the book system for the convoy to 



348 Bud Monaco 



adhere to, with the Battalion CO's jeep leading the way. The 
Battalion HQ's vehicles were next, followed by the HHC's vehicles, 
and the three line companies taking up their place in the convoy in 
order, with A, B, and C Companies bringing up the rear. 

There were MPs stationed at every street crossing on base, 
outside the front gate blocking traffic at the intersections, and 
blocking off the main highway outside the front gate until the 
convoy passed through. There were MPs also stationed for quite a 
few miles down the highway, blocking any cross traffic that might 
interfere with the convoy. Our convoy had the absolute right of way 
at all times during movement, and the Brass did not want anyone 
interfering with our travel plans, disrupting or interfering with the 
miles long convoy. The convoy was the 3rd Battalion, 5th Infantry 
Regiment of the 193rd Infantry Brigade of the United States 
Southern Command, and no one would stand in our way. 

The convoy moved at a medium pace through the interior of 
Panama on the Pan-American National Highway, which connected 
Columbia in South America and Costa Rico on the furthest point 
south of North America. It was quite the sight with the hundred plus 
military vehicles stretched out end to end as far as the eye could see. 

About three hours later, we arrived at the Rio Hato base camp. 
The convoy pulled into the road leading onto the gigantic, sprawling 
Rio Hato base camp which covered many acres of land. 

The Rio Hato base camp had one main, paved, two-lane road 
that started at the front gate, which was manned by MPs, and it was 
sectioned off with paved arterial streets that panned out in many 
directions off of the main interior road. Throughout the base camp, 
there were at least ten dozen corrugated sheet metal, arched-shaped, 
ground-level, Quonset hut buildings, side-by-side in long rows, lined 
up on the arterial streets. The Quonset hut buildings were the 
barracks, HQ's buildings, and many other operations buildings that 
the soldiers would live in, and the Brass would command from, as 
far as the eye could see, during our stay at the base camp over the 
next three months. Our platoon sergeant told us that these were the 
same type of base camp set ups that were used in Vietnam, and the 
set up proved to be very efficient for combat operations, and for our 
present, full-scale training operations. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 349 




The soldiers that had never seen such a base camp before found 
the new layout to be pretty cool, but the newness and coolness would 
soon wear off within a few short days as the constant daily training 
operations would turn out to be a real grind day after day, and night 
after night. Within a few short weeks, we would all be wishing were 
back in the comfort and cozy confines of Fort Kobbe as the rigorous 
training out here in the field would bring on plenty of ball-busting 
soldiering that would be some real tough shit to endure. 

Our mortar platoon trucks 
pulled up to a secfion of Quonset 
huts near the far south end of the 
base camp, on the top of a high 
bluff overlooking the Pacific 
Ocean, with a commanding view 
of the ocean below us. There were 
a dozen Quonset huts along the 
street. There was a single, 
two-story, corrugated-metal building that would be the location for 
the HHC HQs, and where the four deuce mortar platoon would store 
the big guns when not in use. The other HHC platoons would also be 
located in those huts. The HHC officers had a separate Quonset hut 
across the road. The mortar platoon sergeant and a few mortar 
platoon soldiers would be bunking down in the two-story building. 
There was no running water and no flushing toilets. All the fresh 
drinking, shaving, and cooking water we would use would be trucked 
in with Water Buffalo Tankers. The only clean water to shower with 
was mostly collected rain water in a small tank on a wooden stand 
located outside with a garden hose connected to it. It wasn't always 
just rain water in the shower tank. A couple of veteran sergeants 
always had sneaky ways of absconding fresh water through some 
midnight requisitions from the Engineer Corps drivers who 
delivered the Water Buffalos, by bargaining with them to fill up the 
shower tank with fresh water whenever they could get away with it 
from time to time without getting caught by the Brass. The Brass 
mostly looked the other way over the matter, as they had to use the 
same type of shower facility outside their huts, and any small 
convenience of that sort was always gladly appreciated. 



350 Bud Monaco 



There were two wooden structure latrine buildings nearby. One 
for officers, that was much nicer, and one for enlisted men. I guess 
they didn't want any EM shit getting mixed up with officer shit. Rank 
always had its privilege even when it came to shit. The latrines were 
nothing more than glorified outhouses with wooden seats in a row of 
six lined up inside. Thank god we didn't have to do any shit burning 
details here. We soon learned that a civilian shit-sucking truck would 
arrive weekly to suck the shit and piss out of the in-ground latrines 
through hoses and cart it away. Who knew where they dumped all 
that shit, because with a full battalion of soldiers on hand, there 
was a lot of shit to dispose of 

With our arrival at our HHC base camp location at Rio Hato, 
the company platoons, and our four deuce mortar platoon climbed 
out of the trucks and started to unload all the gear, equipment, and 
weapons into our assigned buildings. Once that was done, we all fell 
out into a company formation for a head count so the lifers could 
make sure everyone was where they were supposed to be. Some 
details were handed out to get everything squared away in proper 
order in the Quonset hut barracks buildings and the HHC HQ's 
building. The platoon sergeants then made their rounds to make 
extra sure that everyone was in their designated places. 

We then had lunch mess call. The mess hall was a large Quonset 
hut building where the cooks had set up shop. The mess hall was 
a full-service operation, with cooking stoves, ovens, tables, chairs, 
and the whole nine yards for food service. The full compliments of 
cooks from HHC and the three line companies were out at the base 
camp for the duration of the next three months. It was a relief 
knowing that we would have regular hot food service when we 
were not out in the field. 

When we were in the field on training exercises, the cooks would 
bring us hot food to eat, served out of thermos canisters, just like 
when we were on the Combat Alert mission. There would also be 
times when we would have to be eating C-Rations as the cooks would 
not be bringing hot food for every mess call out in the field. 

Our sleeping situation was similar to JOTC. We would be 
sleeping on Army cots with few amenities other than the 
Army-issued sheets, pillows, and the ubiquitous, brown, wool. Army 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 351 



blankets. At least we didn't have to sleep in tents without floors. 
There would be first call, morning formations, and reveille as 
usual, every day. 

The first few days at Rio Hato were used to acquaint the troops 
with the day to day operations. The operations consisted of 
preparing training schedules, gear and weapons, and being ready to 
go out in the field on maneuvers daily, as well as days at a time with 
overnight exercises. It was going to be a long, hard-working endeavor 
for the next three months of soldiering. Many of the operations were 
more of the same things that we had done during the Combat Alert 
and at JOTC. There were some highlights that kept things 
interesting. We did have quite a bit of down time between 
maneuvers, and we mostly had Saturday afternoons and Sundays off 
duty. Not bad. Not bad at all Lloyd. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 353 



Chapter 51 

Battalion Training Mission 

One of the first training missions was a full battalion operation. 
We loaded up the vehicles and Battalion HQ picked out an open 
area location to set up. Battalion HQ's set up with HHC in the 
immediate surrounding area. The 4.2" mortar platoon set up the big 
guns just inside the perimeter, and the three line companies were 
spread out at least a mile or more on the right and left flanks of the 
Battalion HQs in their prescribed locations. The mission was for the 
three line companies to move out forward to an objective miles ahead, 
set by Battalion HQs, with the 4.2" mortar platoon standing by to 
provide simulated covering fire. The HHC recon platoon was out in 
front of the line company's advance, doing their recon patrols, 
blasting around in their jeeps with mounted .60 caliber machine guns 
and .106 Recoilless Rifles, ready to bring fire upon the enemy, 
and locate where any potential enemy threats might be out 
there waiting to attack. 

The Battalion CO was upfront on the ground with his staff 
directing the line company's movements, always in constant contact 
with HHC and the three line companies with radio communications. 
The Brigade CO was comfortably flying around overhead in his 
command chopper, calling the shots from a thousand feet above and 
overseeing the mission. Nice work, if you can get it. 

The Battalion CO needed a radio telephone operator (RTO) to 
carry his command radio, travel right by his side, and be ready to 
hand him his headset at a moment's notice. The platoon sergeant 
picked me for the detail, and said that it would not be too bad 
a detail, as I would be riding around in the colonel's jeep. 

Well, it turned out that there was some riding around in the back 
of the jeep, maybe about two blocks worth, but there was a lot more 
of walking, running around, and ground pounding for the next six 
hours during the mission, following the CO around on the ground 
like a little puppy dog on a leash, humping his command PRC-25 
radio on my back through the open ground, and through some jungle 
areas to boot. A lot more on the ground than in the jeep. Turned out 
to be a real ass-kicking detail that pounded my skinny ass into the 



354 Bud Monaco 



ft < 







dirt by the time the mission was completed. 

The detail did, in one way, turn out to be interesting, and a good 

learning experience, as I was able to learn how the Battalion 

operated from the command position, and I got to know the 

Battalion CO and his 
staff. They were all 
career lifers, and 
they really knew their 
business of combat 
operations. They were 
all combat veterans 
with numerous tours in 

Vietnam. They moved the line companies and HHC around on the 

simulated battlefield with exact precision, like pieces on a chess board. 

It was pretty cool seeing and learning how it was done from my 

position travelling with the Battalion CO. 

The Battalion sergeant major was always close at hand, making 

sure the CO's orders were followed, carried out by the hook, and 

keeping a watchful eye on 

everyone, including the 

CO's executive officer, a 

major, and the rest of the 

CO's officer and sergeant 

staff members. They always 

stepped carefully around the 

SGTMAJ. Even the officers 

knew better than to fuck with 

him. As I said before, the 

SGTMAJ was no one to fuck with. He could rip off your head and 

shit down your neck in a heartbeat, and not think twice about it. The 

SGTMAJ was one tough motherfucker, and took his command 

position very seriously, even if it was only a training 

mission. Everyone would soldier on, by the book, the way they 

were trained, or there would be a shit storm of hell to 

pay from the SGTMAJ. 

During the mission, the Battalion CO would holler out, "RTO, 

on my six," and I would be right up his ass, as he constantly grabbed 




DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 355 



the headset from the radio on my back, yanking me around by the 
head set cord connected to the radio Hke a dog on a leash. I made 
sure to keep up with him, as he shouted out orders to the COs of the 
Hne companies every few minutes or so. There was a lot of noise 
with the Brigade CO's chopper blades cutting through the air 
overhead, and the constant crack of rifle fire out in front, and on both 
flanks from the line companies. It was all actually pretty exciting, 
but I would be glad when it was over. 

The Brigade CO had his chopper pilot land the chopper near the 
Battalion CO's position two or three times during the mission, with 
the chopper blades kicking up a shit storm of dirt and dust covering 
us in the dust from head to toe. Then, the Brigade CO would exit his 
chopper, all nice and clean without a speck of dirt on his perfectly, 
razor-sharp, pressed fatigues, and go over the mission, looking at 
maps spread out on the hood of our CO's jeep. He would then 
get back into the chopper and blast off, leaving us in the 
swirling dust like the fucking Cisco Kid riding off on his horse 

Diablo into the sunset. 

At times, from some of the 
command standpoints, we could see 
clearly over the open areas, the 
movements of the three line 
companies strategically making their 
advances. It was amazing to see the 
precise movements with all the line 
companies moving forward, following 
the directions and orders from the CO. 
To me, it was some pretty slick stuff, 
but to the CO and his staff, it was just another day in the Army. They 
were just doing their jobs that they were born to do without any 
stress or complications. They were in complete control at all times. 
Eventually, the line companies reached their mission objectives, 
and the mission was, to most of the troops' knowledge, completed, 
coming to its end. By now, it was just past high noon, and I was sent 
back to the mortar platoon location. It was time for lunch mess call. 
Throughout the Battalion's locations, the cooks set up mess calls out 
of the back of deuce and a half trucks and served up some hot food 




356 Bud Monaco 



for everyone out of portable thermos containers. 

Everyone made a quick dash to the chow Hne, standing asshole 
to elbows, bunched up together, looking forward to getting 
something to eat. No one had eaten anything since breakfast mess 
call many hours ago. We were all totally unaware that the mission 
was not over just yet. 

As we are all standing in the chow line, assholes to elbows, 
our HHClstSGT Reymeres comes running up to the chow 
line, screaming at us, ''What the fuck are you assholes doing standing 
in a chow line lined up together like plastic fucking ducks at a 
carnival shooting gallery? You numb nuts are still out in the field on 
a combat mission. Spread your stupid asses out with at least ten feet 
between each one of you, right now on the double. Move, move, 
move, right goddamned nowV 

Within less than thirty seconds, before we could all spread out 
as ordered, there was an unfathomable roar overhead, and all hell 
broke loose, as an Air Force, McDonnell Douglas, F-4 Phantom jet, 
flying out of Howard Air Force Base, with the pilot flying that jet 
right down low on the deck, not a hundred feet over our heads, blasted 
over our position in a simulated combat bomb and strafmg run air 
strike. Holy fucking shit\ It scared the living bejesus out of us, and 
we dropped down real fast into prone positions on the ground eating 
dirt. No one even heard the jet coming, and only until it was well 
past us overhead, did we hear the screaming, whining roar of the jet 
engines. It was so close to the ground, it stirred up clouds of dust as 
it flew by, and we actually felt the jet's back-blast rushing across 
our prone bodies. 

What a wild fucking trip. As we all start to get up out of the dirt. 
Top starts screaming at us again, "Stay down, you stupid fucks. Get 
down, get down, you dummies,'' and we all throw our bodies back 
into the ground. Not five seconds later, another F-4 Phantom jet 
comes roaring out of the sun, blasting over our heads the same 
way as the first one. 

Once the second Phantom jet passed overhead and the dust 
settled. Top didn 7 have to scream out any further orders for us to 
stay down. No one even thought about moving or standing up again. 
We were all hugging the ground like we were making love to it. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 357 



After about five minutes or so, Top yells out for all of us to hear, 
''Now, you dumb fucks can stand up and form a chow line with ten 
feet between every one of you stupid swinging dicks." We all got up 
off the ground very tentatively, and still shaking in our boots, fell 
into a chow line, with ten feet between us, just like Top had ordered. 
We were covered with dust, and all our mess kits had to be splashed 
with water from our canteens to clean off the dust before the cooks 
loaded up our mess kits with food. Damn! That was really fucked 
and scary, but it was also real exciting. Most of us had never seen a 
simulated attack from above by an F-4 Phantom jet fighter. Surely, 
an unforgettable sight. 

When we were finished with the mess call, we gathered up our 
gear, loaded up into the vehicles, and headed back to the Rio Hato 
base camp. Upon arrival back at the base camp, first orders were to 
clean all our personal weapons, and then we had to clean and oil 
down the four deuce mortars before anyone was allowed to clean up, 
take showers, and put on clean fatigues. It was quite a long and hard 
day of training, and we were all glad it was over, for now. There 
would be many more training missions just like the one we had that 
day during the following three months. There would be a lot of 
soldiering going on before we returned to the comfortable 
confines of Fort Kobbe. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 359 



Chapter 52 



Tropic Beauty And The Beach 
Throw In A BattaHon Live Fire Mission To Boot 

At the end of the first week in Rio Hato, when Saturday rolled 
around, we had our morning formation, roll call, reveille, and 
did a few maintenance things. After the lunch mess call, we had the 
rest of the day and Sunday off duty. Our bro crew had planned on 
spending some time down on the beach, and as soon as we were off 
duty, we all quickly got out of our fatigues, put on our civilian 
shorts and sandals, grabbed a portable cassette player, and made our 
way down the bluff onto the beach. 

The beach was absolutely gorgeous. The pristine water and 
light-brown sand stretched along the Pacific Ocean shoreline in both 

directions as far as the eye 
could see. There was not a 
single soul anywhere to be 
seen for miles and miles, and 
we had the whole beach to 
ourselves. The Pacific Ocean 
was a beautiful, deep blue 
and pastel green with small 
waves slapping up onto the 
shore. There was a slight, warm, tropical breeze blowing out from 
the land in a southerly direction with the blazing hot, golden sun, 
glimmering brightly across the water. About two miles off shore there 
was a small, eighty foot high, uninhabited, island that was mostly a 
solid rock with sparse vegetation. It was the only visible sight break 
from the shore to the far horizon. This island did not have a name as 
far as anyone knew, but it was known as Bird Shit Island to the 
American soldiers as the jutting, gray rock formations only 
inhabitants were thousands of ocean birds that just about completely 
covered the rocks with bird shit from the water line to the highest 
elevation of the island. Rio Hato beach was absolutely paradise. 

We walked down the beach for about a half of a mile, popped 
a cassette into the player, sat down, kicked off our sandals, fired up 
a Johnson, and began to simply enjoy the picturesque view, listening 




360 Bud Monaco 



to the music blasting out as the music took us to a wonderful 
place of mind. 

Shortly after, we all took off our shorts, and stark naked, we 
quickly ran across the hot sand, moving fast, as it was burning the 
bottoms of our bare feet, and jumped into the Pacific Ocean. The 
water was bathtub warm, probably around seventy-five to eighty 
degrees, and it was greatly refreshing. 

This was the first time I had ever been in ocean water, and with 
the first mouthfuls and eyefuls of salt water, my eyes were burning. 
The salt water made me choke, gag, and I wound up puking within 
the first minute. Damn, that was not pleasant at all. I wasn't the only 
guy that had that reaction as it was also the first time in the ocean for 
some of the other guys, and they were gagging also. Some of the 
other guys were from the East, West, and Gulf Coasts, and they had 
been in ocean salt water many times before, so the salt water didn't 
bother them at all. Those guys found it very funny and were laughing 
at us guys that were gagging and puking. Wasn't so funny to us pukers 
though, but once the gagging was under control, we all enjoyed 
swimming and splashing around in the warm ocean water. It was like 
when Christopher Lambert, playing the part of Connor McCloud, 
said to his secretary in the 1986 movie, 'Jhe Highlander,' 
"It's a kind of magic." 

The shoreline water went from ankle-deep to chest-high within 
the first few yards where there was a sharp drop off Only about a 
few yards further the water became much deeper. Those of us who 
were not good swimmers had to be careful not to get into the deeper 
water and get ourselves in danger of drowning. One of the guys 
shouted out to us to keep an eye out for the deadly Portuguese Man 
o' War jellyfish that might be occupying the area. They would sting 
the shit out of you, and it would be a real painful experience. He also 
said to be on the watch for shark fins, as this water was known to 
attract sharks and barracudas just like at Kobbe Beach because of the 
presence of humans and ships disgorging their garbage into 
the water not far from the shore. 

The revelry I was enjoying became quickly short lived for me 
out in the water as I was never much of a water person nor was I any 
kind of a swimmer. With the possible threat of marine life that could 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 361 

seriously hurt me, and possibly eat or kill me, I made a retreat out of 
the water back to the safety of the shore. 

One of the guys made a soda run back to the base camp and 
returned shortly with a back pack full of cold bottles of soda. We 
were all pretty thirsty by now, and the cold soda was wonderfully 
refreshing, quenching our parched throats. We laid around on the 
beach for the next five hours or so, and then witnessed the most 
outrageous sunset we had ever seen. It was a pretty outstanding time 
as it was like we were in a totally different world out on the beach, 
and seemingly, so far removed from Army life and the base camp 
that was a litde less than a mile away. As the dusk settled in over the 
ocean, we started, with slight remorse, to make our way back to the 
base camp for the night. It was surely a beautiful day we had spent 
out on the beach. We would repeat those kinds of days many 
times during our tour of duty at Rio Hato base camp whenever 
the situation allowed. 

Back at the base camp, we all showered down and settled into 
the barracks for the night, looking forward to spending the following 
day, Sunday, back on the beach as far removed from the base 
camp and the lifers as we could. 

During one of the following weeks at Rio Hato, the Battalion 
had a full live-fire training mission. The HHC 4.2" mortar platoon 
with its four big guns, the recon platoon with its four .106 mm 
recoilless rifles and .60 caliber machine guns mounted on their jeeps, 
the HHC assigned soldiers with two Ma Deuce M-2 .50 caliber 
machine guns, all three line companies with their .80 mm mortars, 
and every line soldier's M- 16 weapons, were locked and loaded. There 
was an exceptional buzz going on, as everyone throughout the 
battalion was looking forward to the live fire-mission with great 
anticipation. It wasn't every day that we were able to blast away 
with our weapons in a live-fire mission. 

The Battalion moved out of the base camp in a convoy and 
headed out to the live-fire range a few miles away. The Battalion 
units were dispersed around the live-fire range, and the command 
order was passed down through each unit from the Battalion CO to, 
''Load weapons and commence fir in gV 

Bam, Bam, Bam, Blam, Boom! The range came alive with the 



362 Bud Monaco 



deafening sounds of hundreds of soldiers blasting away with every 
weapon in the Battalion's arsenal. It was really something to hear 
and see the immense fire power unloading its ordinance all at the 
same time. In our mortar platoon pits we didn't have much time to be 
rubber necking around to see what was going on around us on our 
flanks. We were rocking and rolling, dropping four deuce mortar 
shells down into the tubes of our big guns at di frantic pace. With the 
constant whumph, whumph, whumph of our four mortar tubes 
blasting away, after the first half- minute of firing, we couldn't hear 
much else other than the ear-splitting sounds of our own big guns. 
It was a real trip to be part of that mission. 

Down range the ground was maniacally exploding, engulfed 
in flames like Dante's Inferno with the battalion's ordinance tearing 
up the terrain. The old tanks and truck targets out there were being 
blown to smithereens. You could hardly see the ground in most places, 
as the dirt being blown up caused a giant cloud of dust that rose a 
hundred feet into the air. Cry havoc! Release the Dogs of War! 

After about twenty minutes or so, once all the units had 
expended their ammo and ordinance, the shouts from the COs and 
SGTs of, ''Ceasefire, ceasefire, clear all weapons,'' was passed down 
the lines. Once the firing ceased, there was an ominous quiet that fell 
over the range and the firing line. Then there was a big cheer that 
generated down line somewhere, and we all started to shout and yell 
out over the range with accomplished excitement. Even the officers 
and sergeants were whooping it up with the rest of the enlisted 
men. Everyone had a ball. 

The orders were then passed down the line to secure all 
weapons, and for everyone to load back up into the vehicles. We then 
headed back to the base camp to clean our weapons and do 
maintenance for the rest of the day. 

Back at the base camp, as we unloaded the vehicles and started 
to clean all of our weapons, everyone's fatigues were covered with 
a layer of dust, and everyone's ears were still ringing from the 
live-fire mission at the range. We dutifully started to clean all the 
weapons with excited conversation going around about the mission. 
We took a fast lunch mess call and returned to our designated areas 
to finish our weapons maintenance for the rest of the afternoon. 
It turned out to be a pretty cool day out in the field. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 363 



Chapter 53 

First Promotion 

The month of March out in the field at Rio Hato passed. By early 
April, I had acquired enough time in service to be promoted to 
Private First Class E-3. 1 didn't do anything other than have enough 
time in service for the basically automatic promotion, but it would 
mean a few dollars more each month in military pay and reaching 
the next grade of rank. My promotion to PFC actually was dated in 
February, but the orders didn't come through until now, and 
I received a few dollars extra for back pay on the next pay day. 

Back sometime in February, SSGT Packardie had asked the 
mortar platoon soldiers if anyone was interested in applying for the 
Brigade Soldier of the Month award. There were no takers at first, 
but later I asked him what it was all about. He told me that a soldier 
would study up on his assigned MOS, would go in front of a review 
selection board facing three senior NCOs, and they would test his 
MOS knowledge. He would also have his bunk, lockers, and gear 
inspected, and he would have to be dressed perfectly with his 
fatigues tailored, combat boots exquisitely shined, and hair cut high 
and tight. A soldier would have to look and act as stract as he could 
be to be chosen over the other applicants. The Sarge also said that if 
I was chosen to be the Brigade Soldier of the Month that the award 
would become part of my permanent record in my Army 201 file, 
and I would also be awarded a three-day pass. 

So I figured, what the hell, and I took a shot at it. And, Bam, 
what do you know, I made it, and was chosen to be Brigade Soldier 
of the Month. Not bad. I thought I was pretty slick. I didn't receive 
notification of the award until we were out in the field during 
mid-April, and I was pretty proud of receiving the award, looking 
forward to using the three-day pass once we left the field 
and returned to Fort Kobbe. 

The award said, 'As a result of my ability, military proficiency 
and appearance, I was selected by my unit as Unit Soldier of the 
Month. This achievement enabled me to be selected over the other 
applicants. My appearance before the selection board displayed the 
competitive spirit and high standards around which an Army 
Combat Unit is developed, and fully warrants the award and a 



364 Bud Monaco 



three-day pass in recognition of my achievement." The award 
was signed by the 193rd Infantry Brigade Full Bird Colonel 
Commanding Officer. 

Some of the guys jacked me off about it, saying that I was 
becoming too much of a lifer type with gung-ho dedication. I told 
them to fuck off. I would do what I wanted to do trying to make my 
time in service easier, get a three-day pass, and have the award in my 
Army 201 File for future promotions. As long as I was stuck in the 
Army, I always tried to make the best of it. 

During the third or fourth week of April, the scuttlebutt started 
flying around that our Battalion might be recalled back to Fort Kobbe 
sooner than the end of May. No one knew what the reason was, but 
we eventually found out that the Russians were planning on having a 
warship or two and some freighters pass through the Panama Canal. 
Anytime the goddamned commie Ruskies wanted to use the Panama 
Canal, the American Military took it very seriously. The Cold War 
was still a hot issue between Washington and Moscow. The Brass 
would put everyone on Combat Alert status, making sure the 
Ruskies didn't try to pull any of their shit. And, the Ruskies 
always pulled a lot of shit, for no other reason that to just try to 
fuck over the Americans. 

Since the Bay of Pigs fiasco, America didn't trust the Ruskies 
at all, not that they ever did trust them since the end of WW II, 
monitoring their every move, and searching their freighters for any 
contraband headed for Cuba or any other South American country. 
The American military wanted every swinging dick standing by and 
ready to rock in a moment's notice if the Ruskies tried anything 
untoward. The Americans could not search the warships, but they 
could sure as shit search any freighters traversing the Panama 
Canal at their choosing. 

Our battalion and company commanders, with this new 
knowledge, decided that they would squeeze in as many training 
missions as possible if the Battalion was possibly going to be 
spending a shortened time period out in the field. So the training 
missions were set up hot and heavy for the upcoming weeks. 

One of the big training missions was an airborne operation. We 
all fell out early one morning, loaded up the troops into the trucks 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 365 



without our heavy weapons, and headed over to the Rio Hato 
airfield. HHC was set up in tandem with the two Hne Companies of 
B and C setting up a secure perimeter around the airstrip and the 
adjacent drop zone. A Company airborne would be loading up in full 
airborne parachute gear that was packed and prepared by the HHC 
airborne riggers and trucked in from Fort Kobbe. 

A Company airborne arrived at the airfield with the rest of the 
Battalion, and then located to a specified area to chute up and wait 
for the C-130s to arrive from Howard Air Force Base. The C-130s 
arrived about an hour later, landed with the big roar of their 
turboprop engines shaking the ground, and the A Company airborne 
troops loaded into the jump planes. The jump planes then taxied to 
their take-off position on the runway, bringing the engines up to speed, 
and took off into the sun with the turboprop engines kicking 
up a mile wide cloud of dust. 

About fifteen minutes later, after circling the airfield and drop 
zone, the giant C-130s made their jump runs, and the A Company 
airborne soldiers stood in the door, made their jumps and landed, 
scattering all over the drop zone. The airborne battalion CO, his staff, 
and the HHC officers and SGTs that were on jump status also jumped 
with A Company. It was quite the sight, with almost two hundred 
airborne soldiers exiting the aircrafts from nine hundred feet, and 
gently floating down to earth under their billowing parachute 
canopies filling the cloudless azure tropical sky, with the sun 
blazing hot as usual. 

The airborne mission went off without a hitch. No one got hurt. 
No one landed in the surrounding jungle. It was a well-executed 
mission all around. Our combat-ready Battalion was always ready to 
bring deadly fire and death from above and on the ground, executing 
its operations with extreme prejudice. All the airborne troops had big 
smiles on their faces, and the officers and SGTs were all very pleased 
with the success of the mission. 

Once the mission was completed, we all loaded back up into 
the trucks and headed back to the Rio Hato base camp. We secured 
our weapons back in the Armorer's vault after cleaning them, 
and were back just in time for lunch mess call. Just another 
day in the Army. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 367 



Chapter 54 

Mind Expansions: Welcome To The Revolution 

''If You Take A Trip In Your Mind. 
You May Never Return The Same J' 

When the weekend rolled around, our bro crew made plans to 
hit the beach. Once we were off duty for the day after lunch 
mess call on Saturday, we got out of our fatigues and into our shorts, 
t-shirts, and sandals. While we were getting ready to leave the base 
camp area, one of the guys had us gather around his bunk, showing 
us a letter he had just received from one of his friends back home in 
the World during morning mail call. Inside the letter his friend back 
home had enclosed two dozen of these little tiny tablets wrapped in 
plastic. These little, match-head sized tablets turned out to be Purple 
Microdot LSD acid tabs, widely known as Purple Haze through the 
revolutionary drug culture. Holy shit. There were thirteen of us in 
our regular bro crew, and only two of them had ever dropped acid 
before. None of the rest of us had ever done acid, or even seen acid 
before in any form, and didn't have a clue about what getting 
off and tripping was all about. 

Well, that didn't have any effect or concern to us, as each guy 
was given a tab, popped it into his mouth, and swallowed it. We then 
left the base camp area, headed down the bluff onto the beach, and 
started walking along the shore on the pristine, bright 
copper-colored sand with the sun shining beautifully over the 
glistening blue ocean water. 

Further down the shoreline, we arrived at the hootch cantina 
that we had frequented before, looking like it was right out of a 
Humphrey Bogart movie. We bought some bottles of Coke and sat 
around under the small thatched-roofed picnic tables enjoying the 
scenery. There was a juke box in the cantina, and one of the guys 
threw a dime in the machine, and punched in some song selections. 
None of us were feeling the effects of the acid yet, but we all seemed 
to have a very serene and quiet feeling about us. The first song that 
started playing on the juke box was Led Zeppelin's 'Whole Lotta 
Love,' which was totally mind blowing that out here in the middle of 
nowhere, in the interior of Panama, this hootch cantina had 



368 Bud Monaco 



Led Zeppelin on the juke box. I swear to this day, those first notes of 
Jimmy Page's guitar riff, 'Da-da-da-da-dah-dah-dah, da-da-da-da- 
da-dah-dah,' was the fire trigger that set off the acid. Then, when 
Robert Plant's vocal kicked in with, 'You need cooHng, baby I'm not 
fooling,' the magic was upon us in magnificent fashion, completely 
taking us to another level of consciousness, or sub-consciousness, 
engulfing our beings. 

My first hallucination came over me with a rushing, brilliant 
swirl of colors, and a full-body rush of excitement. I was sitting at 
the table, with my elbows on my knees, happening to be looking 
down at and admiring my, recently acquired, small heart tattoo on 
the calf of my right leg. The tattoo started to move around on my leg 
and seemed to rise up off of my skin, floating around my calf with 
the cherry red, lime green and navy blue colors of the tattoo turning 
into a blaze of bright colors. Wow\ This was really something, as 
the body and head-rush caressed me in a beautiful serenity 
of mind and body. 

Looking up in amazement as the acid started kicking in, every 
guy in the bro crew rose up simultaneously together, without a word 
spoken between us, except for one of the guys saying, which sounded 
like a reverberating voice, "It's time for us to go." I swear I could see 
the words coming out of his mouth like a caption in a cartoon. We all 
looked at each other with knowing looks, locked in together as one 
entity, and we started to walk back to the shoreline. 

As we walked away from the cantina, we could still hear Jimmy 
Page's wailing guitar riffs wafting through the air with a magical 
cacophony of sound as the music slowly faded away the further down 
the shoreline we walked. It was so fucking heavyl Just an amazing 
feeling now thumping through my body and head. One of the guys 
fired up the portable cassette player and Grand Funk Railroad's song, 
'Time Machine,' came blazing out of the small speaker of the 
cassette player. It sounded like a giant PA system in a concert hall 
blasting away. The acid brought about an audio hallucinogenic 
intensity to our ears that was unbelievable. I was seeing thousands of 
shades of intensely vivid colors through my eyes, and the colors of 
the blue sky, brown sand and blue-green ocean became distinctively 
brighter, and intensified more so with every step we took along the 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 369 

beach. What a rush of adrenahne and colors that was mind-blowing, 
but just absolutely stunning. 

Further down the beach we came across a small water inlet 
that cut through the beach from the jungle. The creek had small, 
three-foot high banks, and there was only a few inches of water 
flowing through it. There was a shabby fence line along the creek in 
the area, with some broken strings of barbed wire hanging loosely 
from the short fence posts the wire was attached to. We made our 
way through the open spaces of the wire, crossed the creek, 
and continued down the beach further than we had ever gone 
before. After about thirty minutes of walking, we pulled up, and 
sat down in a circle. 

By now, if we weren't all smashed on the acid during the walk, 
we were all really blazing away by that time, as the acid had totally 
kicked in. We were getting into the sun in a major way. The music 
was cranking out of the cassette player, and we were talking, 
smoking, laughing insanely, bringing tears to our eyes, and just 
having a ball. What a trip we were having, just about impossible to 
describe. We were on a magical mystery tour, and no tickets or 
boarding passes were needed. Just bring your mind and body. If you 
weren't there, or never dropped acid, you just wouldn't know. Only 
the experienced could ever know. The civilian and military scientists 
who invented acid didn't know. They left the experience to be tested 
on unknowing soldiers during the 50's, and unknowing college 
students, like Ken Kesey and others in the 60's, to determine and 
study the psychological effects of that new wonder drug. You were 
either on the bus or off the bus. Tune in, turn on, and drop out. Thanks 
to them, the new revolution of the mind, as the children started 
to march to a different drum, was born, and our soldier bro crew 
out on the beach, to their unknowing, were enjoying the fruits of 
their invention. And, we loved it! 

That far down the beach the ocean was producing some nice waves 
that were about two or three feet high as they crashed onto the shore. 
The sound of the waves crashing onto the shore sounded like monster 
blasts of tropical thunder to our ears. Then, a few of the guys from 
Califomia, the lower East Cost and Florida that had done some surfing 
back home, decided to hit the water and do some body surfing. 



370 Bud Monaco 



Watching them lying on top of the bright blue waves, riding 
them back to the shore, was a beautiful sight. I knew I just had to 
give it a shot and try it myself. I had never done any surfing of any 
kind in my life, and the body surfing thing sure looked real cool to 
do. I was hesitant to get in the water, as my previous experience with 
salt water was not so pleasant, and as mentioned before, I was not 
a good swimmer at all. 

I finally got my nerve up and slowly waded into the water until 
the water was up to my shoulders. Being totally immersed with the 
water all around me, brought on a new body rush that was shocking, 
and with adrenaline flying through my body, it took me to a whole 
'nother level of intensity. Yoweee, yeeehaaa, kazammml That was 
really some kind of intense feeling. I was totally psychedelicized, 
and it was a beauUful thing! 

With two of the guys standing right next to me in the water, 
keeping a close eye on me, as I had asked them to do, making sure 
I didn't drown my skinny ass, we waited for the next wave. Even 
whacked out of our skulls tripping on the acid, we sfill had enough 
sense, keeping our faculties in order, to be aware of the dangers of 
the ocean with safety precautions. When the next wave was arriving 
a few feet behind us, they picked me up by my legs and arms, 
holding me parallel to the surface of the water, and as the wave came 
to us, they shoved me forward with the wave. The force of the wave 
took me right along with it. I was pushed forward by the power of the 
wave with my arms outstretched in front of me, and rode that wave 
like I had wings attached to my body. Riding along on the top of the 
wave cutting through the water was just unbelievably outstanding. 
I was on top of the world and flying across the water like a giant 
sea gull in full flight. 

Once the wave, with me riding on it, came up near the 
shoreline, the wave lost its momentum, and I sank into the water 
head first, forgetting to put my feet down on the bottom, and I got a 
big mouthful and nose full of salt water. As soon as I recovered and 
got back on my feet in the knee deep water near the shoreline, 
I started gagging and wound up puking up salt water. Damn, this put 
a real good damper on my enjoyment. I was kind of freaking out, 
seeing the mostly hquid puke come flying out of my mouth looking 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 371 

like a stream from a fire hose. Not too bad of a bummer, but a 
bummer just the same. I quickly recovered and went back to the 
camp area, washed my mouth out with some water we had with us, 
and my enjoyment quickly returned. 

The body surfing thing was so cool. With the acid's 
hallucinations and colors still blasting away in my head, I just had 
to give it another shot, salt water shock or not, and do it again. The 
rock music was still cranking out of the cassette player with its magic 
sounds caressing our ears, and everyone was continuing to 
hysterically laugh and shout out loudly across the beach. 

There was not a single soul besides us anywhere for miles on 
the beach. The beach was completely ours, and we owned it for now. 
There was nothing to be seen between us and the far, distant horizon 
out over the ocean, except Bird Shit Island sitting out there in the 
ocean about three miles out. We were so far removed from the reality 
of the Army and our lives back in the States that it was unreal, and 
none of us gave it a second's thought. Where we were and tripping 
on the acid was the only reality we knew at that time. Nothing else 
mattered, or even came to mind. 

So, I headed back into the water and did two more rounds of 
body surfing that blew me away further in extreme ecstasy. It was an 
absolutely beautiful feeling and experience that I would never 
forget. After my two further rounds of body surfing, I had had enough 
of the water tripping. I walked out of the sea, back to the blanket area 
and sat down. I couldn't believe how my body was vibrating from 
head to toe. It was totally euphoric and wonderfully enjoyable. 

By now, it was late afternoon, and we had just about depleted 
our bottles of soda and canteens of fresh water. So, it was 
collectively decided, as the thirteen of us were surely in a collective 
state of mind, that three of us would take a walk back to the cantina, 
get some more soda, and fill up the canteens with fresh water. I felt 
like taking the walk, and with two of the other guys, headed down 
the beach to the canfina. 

When we arrived at the creek crossing, it was no longer a creek, 
but a fast flowing river. None of us were aware of it when we first 
crossed the creek many hours earlier that as the ocean tide changed, 
the creek became a river, with the incoming ocean tide driving the 



372 Bud Monaco 



water inland from the sea. So we had to wade through waist-deep 
water to cross, and continued on to the cantina. Arriving at the cantina 
was a shock. We were still tripping our brains out, and being around 
the few cantina people was really weird. We quickly loaded up with 
bottles of soda, filled the canteens with fresh water, and headed back 
down the beach to the sanctity of our campsite on the shoreline. 

We guzzled down some of the soda and water, sat around 
listening to the music, smoked some cigarettes, and a few Johnsons 
to boot. Smoking the Johnsons added yet another dimension to our 
acid high that took some of the edge off and was very refreshing. 

The hours passed by in a blaze of colors, turning the sea into 
multi-colors of turquoise, emerald, purple, and violet, like every color 
of a Peacock's feathers or a rainbow. It seemed to unfold in clear, 
slow motion, as our adrenalin fueled bodies enabled our minds to see 
the wonderful colors and illusions. Eventually, the sun started to set 
below the horizon. The magnificent, golden globe of the sun 
glowing upon the glistening water was a beautiful sight, with many 
hues and shades of brilliant colors. Once the sun set and the early 
evening dusk was upon us, the night came down, and we decided to 
make a campfire. We walked up from the shoreline into the edge of 
the looming and foreboding jungle tree line, found some dried scrub 
brush and tree branches, and carried them back to our camp site. We 
got a real nice camp fire going just before it got dark, and sat around 
talking, laughing, and listening to the music. 

Once it was fully dark, the white-capped surf crashing on the 
shore gave off bright, illuminated, spectral blue-green 
phosphorescence sparks of light in continuously changing 
shapes. Remarkably, a swollen full moon rose up from below the far 
horizon across the water, and with its blazing orange-tinted color, it 
was an amazing sight as we were all still pretty high on the acid. We 
sat there for hours watching the full moon rise over the ocean and 
Bird Shit Island as the orange-tinted color changed to a vividly bright 
white. With our visual senses still at a heavy peak, as the moon was 
speaking to the sea, it was like broad daylight out there in the sand. 
There were no time and space limitations. There was only 
a space-time continuum of the universe that belonged only to us. 
It was a magnificent sight. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 373 




Eventually, the acid wore off as the hours of night passed by. 
Thousands of stars filled the sky in a compass of celestial 
magnitude. The ocean was presenting itself like a great sea of life 
with a primeval obsession. The amber ball moon, which turned to a 
white sphere, shot silver shafts of light across the restless sea to the 
far horizon. Although we were just pin-pricks against the vast 

seascape, we were in perfect 
tune with life, as we put a few 
more tree branches on the fire, 
and one by one we all started 
to nod off. With the acid 
having been pulsating in our 
bodies for hours, and with 
all the walking and body 
surfing under the burning 
hot tropical sun, it had worn us down. Exhausted, we all 
fell into a beautiful dream state. 

I awoke sometime during the night, and was choking on the 
smoke from the smoldering fire. A couple of other guys had woken 
up choking on the smoke also. No one realized or knew that during 
the day, the wind was blowing out over the ocean, but at night, the 
wind changed directions, and was blowing in off the ocean, blowing 
the campfire smoke right into our faces. So, we quickly rearranged 
ourselves around the campfire, got out of the way of the blowing 
smoke, put a few more branches on the fire, as it had gotten a little 
chilly during the night, and we still were only wearing 
shorts and t-shirts. Those who had woken up quickly settled 
back in and went to sleep. 

We all started to wake up just after the first cold light of dawn, 
and shortly after the sun started to rise up on the ocean's far horizon 
it was like nothing any of us had ever seen. With the traces of the 
acid still rocking around in our heads, the giant sphere of the bright 
orange sun slowly rose up over the ocean in a blazing sight of color 
and light. It was absolutely a beautiful sight to see, as we sat there in 
the sand without saying a word to each other. The only sound that 
could be heard was the never ending sound of the ocean waves 
crashing onto the shore. Nothing we could say could top what we 



374 Bud Monaco 



were hearing. It was magnificently stunning. 

With the morning upon us, we were pretty hungry by now, and 
we decided to decamp our spot, and head back to the cantina to get 
something to eat. We were all feeling a kind of leftover effect from 
the acid trip, but it was nothing like a booze hangover, and it actually 
felt pretty nice. Even though it was still pretty early in the morning, 
the cantina was open. The cook fired up some hamburgers for us as 
we greedily wolfed them down and went back for seconds. Someone 
popped a dime into the juke box, and bam! Led Zeppelin was 
blasting out of the juke box again. We loved it and were enjoying 
the moment all over again, except we weren't starting to get off 
on the acid this time. 

We decided to stay on the beach for the rest of the day. None of 
us were in the state of mind looking forward to going back to the 
base camp and our barracks yet. So we made another campsite not 
too far away from the cantina, sat around on the beach, and 
did some more body surfing. 

With the effects of the acid pretty much worn off by now, 
I found a brand new way to look at life with a whole new outlook. 
If I wasn't into the new Age of Aquarius before, I was certainly 
locked into it now. The revolution of my mind had begun, and I was 
going to rock and roll right along with it, totally. 

I now knew what Ozzy Osborne and Black Sabbath were 
saying about the new revolution of our minds, and the children of the 
revolution were starting to march. Society didn't have a clue. 
My mind had been shot out of a cannon, giving me new visions of 
myself and the world around me. I would never be the same man 
I was with this new indelible mark firmly imprinted in my brain cells. 
I now vividly saw a new world order with an enduring new mind set. 
I had rode deep into the sun, and words cannot completely describe 
all of it. Reading Tom Wolfe's book, 'The Electric Kool Aid Acid 
Test,' would be a better way to understand what an acid trip and the 
new Age of Aquarius was really like in better words than 
I could ever write. 

Most of the music we were listening to was still pretty new to 
us, but hearing it while we were tripping for the first time, gave the 
wonderful rock and roll music a whole new glorious meaning. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 375 



With the new music firmly locked into our brains, we found new 
meanings and understanding in what the music and lyrics were all 
about. It was a beautiful thing. That time of life and new mentality 
would continue into my future until this present day. 

By the time the afternoon sun was burning off, we figured it 
was time to head back to the base camp. Thinking of the thirteen of 
us, still to this day, I can vividly remember and clearly see in my 
mind, all thirteen brothers faces as if it was yesterday, slowly and 
dejectedly, walking up the beach and back to our present state of 
reality of being in the Army. Damn. We all wished that the time on 
the beach could IsiSi forever, but we all knew the acid trip was over as 
we came back down to Mother Earth. It was back to enduring our 
life and times in the Army. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now ! 377 



Chapter 55 

Back To Reality 

Back at the base camp, it was surely a strange state of mind, 
fully realizing the change in our lives. We tried to avoid any 
lifers, quickly showered, and put on some clean clothes. We avoided 
the mess hall, filled up on some junk food snacks that we had stashed 
away with our gear, and one by one, we walked back down to the 
beach to continue to cool out for a few more hours until last call and 
lights out. Once the night came down around us on the beach, we 
headed back to our barracks, hit our bunks and fell into 
a deep melancholy sleep. That past day and a half would never be 
forgotten, and we would never be the same. And, we liked it! 

First call on Monday morning came way too quickly, but it was 
back to the grind of Army life, and there were no second choices. 
The scuttlebutt about leaving Rio Hato was at a higher pitch as we 
went about our duties for the day. We were told that we would be 
going on a short training mission on Tuesday, ordered to check, clean, 
prepare our gear and weapons, and we would be having an 
inspection before dinner mess call. 

First call on Tuesday rolled around, and we were out of our 
bunks, had a real fast breakfast mess call, put our gear on, loaded up 
into our vehicles, and headed out for the morning's training mission. 
It turned out to be more of a walk-through battalion mission. The 
Battalion spread out in a new area we had not been to before, set up 
a full defensive perimeter with everyone from Battalion HQs, HHC, 
and all three line companies taking part. 

The Battalion CO gave out orders for the line companies to move 
out on line to a designated objective a few miles from where we were 
located. Battalion HQs and HHC followed in their wake, and two 
hours later, the objective was reached, bringing an end of the 
training mission. Nice. No big hassles to speak of. 

A Huey chopper soon appeared overhead, landed nearby, and 
the Battalion CO and SGTMAJ walked over to it, hopped into the 
chopper, and it took off quickly. None of us knew where it was 
going, but we found out later that the Battalion CO was headed back 
to Fort Kobbe, and we would be heading back to Fort Kobbe the 
following day. 



378 Bud Monaco 



The new orders had come through from Brigade Headquarters 
that our stay at Rio Hato base camp was being cut short. We were 
heading back to Fort Kobbe to prepare for a full Combat Alert. Out 
of one frying pan and into another. It was real cool that we were 
leaving the Rio Hato base camp, and the Combat Alert could only 
last for a day or so at the most. 

I was near the Battalion CO's jeep, and his driver and 
assistant-driver were sitting in it waiting for the orders to move out. 
The CO's driver and assistant were two of the thirteen guys from the 
acid trip, and the driver told me to ask my platoon sergeant if I could 
ride back to the base camp with them in the CO's jeep. I asked our 
platoon sergeant and he said it would be OK. So I hopped into the 
colonel's jeep and off we went. 

The CO's driver was a guy from Virginia, and one of the coolest 
guys in our bro crew. The assistant was a total slacker, Army-hating, 
get-over-any-way-he-can, jerk-ass motherfucker. The assistant was 
from California, and had lived the life of a hippy-type before he got 
drafted into the Army. He was also an exceptional oil painting and 
drawing artist with an outstanding talent for painting portraits and 
such. But, he thought he was King Shit the Ragman, and so much 
worldly and all-knowing, more than any of the rest of us dummies. 
So he thought. None of us felt the same way, and had to let him know 
it many times over, whenever he would get on his high horse and try 
to impress us with his superior knowledge of the world, and life in 
general. Even after a colonoscopy, the guy would still be full of shit. 

The CO's driver split away from the rest of the Battalion. He 
could go anywhere he wanted with the Battalion CO's jeep flying 
the CO's flag on its bumper. No one fucked with the CO's jeep whether 
the CO was riding in it or not. So, he headed away from our present 
location, drove towards the jungle tree line, and into a small path cut 
into the jungle just wide enough for the jeep to pass through. 

About a quarter mile or so, we came across a small river. He 
drove the jeep right into the river, continuing down the river bed 
about another quarter of a mile, and stopped right in the middle of 
the river. The river was less than a foot deep, and he turned off the 
engine. With the motor turned off, you couldn't hear a sound, except 
for the river water running around and under the jeep, and the sounds 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 379 




of the jungle, which was closed in around us on both sides of the 
river. It was really cool with just the three of us sitting in the jeep in 
the middle of the jungle. 

The driver then pulled a Johnson out of his fatigue shirt pocket 
and fired it up. Passing it around, we all took hits off of it, getting 
pretty stoned. It was really nice and totally enjoyable. After about 
twenty minutes or so, I noticed that the river was starting to run faster 

and rising pretty fast around the 
wheels of the jeep. The driver said 
that he was pretty sure that was part 
of the river we had crossed back on 
the beach, and that the tide was 
coming in as it did twice a day, 
every day. So, he started the jeep 
back up and drove out of the river 
onto the bank. Within the next twenty 
minutes, the river had risen quickly 
to at least three or four feet deep. It was amazing to see \\o^ fast the 
depth of the river changed in such a short time. 

The driver then got the jeep back on the narrow path and headed 
back the way we had come. Once out of the jungle tree line, we hit 
the open area, got back on a small access road and headed back to 
the base camp. He dropped me off at my barracks, and I brought my 
rifle over to the armorer. I went back to the barracks where the rest of 
the platoon was hanging out, telling the bro crew about the stop at 
the river location, and everyone thought that was really cool. We 
then headed over to the mess hall for lunch. After lunch, we were 
told to fall out into formation and given our new orders. 

The new orders were for us to start cleaning up our barracks, 
policing up the company area, emptying garbage cans, and packing 
up our gear to be ready to move out first thing in the morning. 
Fucking A! We were heading back to Fort Kobbe, cutting our time 
out in the field by four weeks. It was outstanding news for all of us. 
After dinner mess call, we headed back down to the beach for 
one last time, burned a Johnson or two, watched another beautiful, 
tropical sunset, headed back to the barracks, and we all hit our racks 
to sleep. We knew first call was going to be an early one, and it sure was. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 381 



Chapter 56 

The Army-Navy Way: Anchors Aweigh 

First call came well before sunrise, around four o'clock in the 
morning. Everyone was up in a flash, collecting gear, striking 
our sheets, blankets, pillows, and headed out for the morning 
formation. Breakfast was served, and then we collected our weapons 
from the armorer. We started loading up our vehicles with our gear 
and the four big guns, and were ready to roll out in the convoy 
in less than two hours. 

The Battalion was all ready to roll out from Rio Hato base camp, 
but we were all in for a big surprise. The new orders came down the 
chain of command. Instead of driving back to Fort Kobbe in a 
convoy, we would be doing a joint Army and Navy combined task 

force training mission. 
Nobody knew squat about 
what this joint task force 
mission would entail, but 
we soon found out. 

Instead of the convoy 
moving out of the base camp 
and up the Pan-American 
Highway, the convoy made 
its way down onto Rio Hato beach by way of a narrow culvert that 
was located on the far end of the base camp. Once all the Battalion 
vehicles were on the beach, we dismounted from the vehicles, 
mustered up in formations in the sand with the vehicles lined up in 
proper order behind us. We were then told we would be making an 
amphibious embarkation, loading up the Battalion onto U.S. 
Navy "LSTs," Landing Ship Tanks, also known in Army and Navy 
derisive slang as, 'Large Stationary Targets,' sailing out into the 
Pacific Ocean, and making a combat assault debarkation at Rodman 
Naval Station. It was going to be one hell of a mission that 
did not work out very well as planned for the Battalion HQ's 
crew or our HHC. 

It was a pretty cool sight. The whole Battalion, with all its 
vehicles, was lined up across the shoreline. Officers and NCOs were 




382 Bud Monaco 



moving up and down the beach shouting out orders and talking into 
radios. Standing on the beach, looking out over the Pacific Ocean 
with the morning sun rising on the far horizon, we could see nothing 
out in the ocean except Bird Shit Island in the near distance. 

We stood around in formation like dumb-asses, fiddle- fucking 
around for what seemed like hours, with the heat of the day coming 
on strong, beating down on our now sweating asses. Eventually, we 
could see three small dots on the far horizon that slowly became the 
shapes of three Navy LSTs heading towards the shore. As they got 
closer we could see the immense size of those LSTs as they 
cut through the water heading right 
at us on the beach. 

The LSTs we would be boarding 
were the same type of LSTs that were 
used extensively during WW II for the 
amphibious combat landing assaults in 
Italy, Southern France, and during the 
Normandy invasion in 1944. The LSTs 
were also used during the War in the 
Pacific, as the American military was 
doing its island by island combat assault invasions from the shores 
of America's west coast, all the way to fucking Okinawa. The LSTs 
were three hundred and eighty-four feet long, with a beam of 
fifty-five feet across, displaced two thousand and ninety tons, with 
a flank speed of fourteen knots. The LSTs had a Navy crew of two 
hundred and fifteen officers and enlisted men. 

The LSTs had three deck levels. The ship had a split, two-door 
bow that opened wide with a twenty foot ramp that dropped down 
into the sand or water, opening the hull of the ship for loading troops, 
equipment and vehicles. The open top deck was used for vehicles, 
reachable to the top deck by way of a mechanized, inside ramp. The 
three-story bridge and control tower was also located on the top deck 
of the ship. The second inside deck was used to transport vehicles 
the same way. The third lowest deck contained the mess hall, 
operations rooms, latrines, sleeping and living quarters. The 
sleeping quarters had hundreds of flat, canvas material with 
grommets around the ends, hanging from the ceiling supported by 





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DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 383 



metal chains, stacked over each other, eight raclcs high, with only 
two feet between each rack. There were endless stacks and stacks of 
racks with very little walking space between the sections. It was not 
a very comfortable place to live or sleep. 

The LST that Battalion HQs and HHC would be loading-in was 
LST-1160, named the Traverse County. It had been in service and 
commissioned since late in the Korean War. The LSTs had the 
ability to be armed with five-inch surface warfare guns, 4.2" 
mortars, .40 mm anti-aircraft guns, and numerous rocket launchers. 
Although the LSTs were looked at as 'the low level dog ships' of the 
Navy Fleet, they were still formidable ships, also known as the 
'backbone of American amphibious operations.' The LSTs were 

vital to any amphibious military 
operation, and they proved their 
value many times over during 
World War II, the Korean War, 
and the Vietnam War. 

Top came around shouting 
out orders to the platoon 
sergeants to get the troops and 
vehicle drivers ready to board the LSTs when they hit the beach. The 
beaching process was the LST would make a run at the beach just as 
the high tide came in. The big ramp would be lowered, the vehicles 
would drive right off of the sand and onto the ramps, then directed by 
the Navy sailors to their proper parking locations on the top deck and 
the second deck. Once the vehicles were loaded, the troops would 
march up the ramp and onto the ship. 

Well, it all seemed simple enough. It turned out well for the line 
companies two LSTs, but not so well for the Battalion HQ and 
HHC LST. Not well at all. 

The correct beaching process was for the LSTs to head into the 
beach at a prescribed speed, landing the bow of the ship right onto 
the shoreline. As the ship neared the beach, the ship's captain would 
give the order for the sailor crew manning the ship's anchor to drop 
the anchor fifteen hundred feet from shore. With that maneuver, the 
anchor would lock into the ocean floor as the anchor chain uncoiled 
from its housing located on the stern of the ship. Then, once the ship 



■ 













384 Bud Monaco 



came ashore, it would load up, and at high tide, the captain would 
put the ships engines into reverse, using the anchor and chain to pull 
it off of the shore back into deep water. 

As we were standing on the beach, no further than ten yards 
from the water not knowing about the beaching process, the LSTs 
were coming at us in what seemed like full flank speed, and 
continued to come right onto the shore, making us all fall back out of 
formation thinking that the ship was going to run right over our sorry 
asses. It was unbelievable seeing the giant ship sailing right onto 
the shore in front of us. 

The line company's two ships came right onto the shore 
properly, and when the ramp was lowered, it was correctly placed on 
the dry sand, and they quickly started to load onto the ships. When 
our LST came to the shore, it did not reach the dry sand, leaving 
about ten yards of water between the ships ramp and the dry sand. 

The Navy guys on the ramp signaled for our first battalion 
vehicle to drive through the water and onto the ramp. With the 
Battalion CO's jeep with the CO, SGTMAJ, and driver leading the 
way, the driver drove the jeep off of the sand and into the water, 
trying to drive up the ramp. Well, it turned out that the water was 
deeper than they all thought, and the CO's jeep went nose down into 
the water. When it reached the front of the ramp, the front end of the 
jeep was too deep in the water to drive onto the ramp. 

The jeep's front end slammed into the edge of the ramp and 
sunk further into the water, with the water rushing over the hood of 
the jeep, engulfmg the CO, SGTMAJ, and driver, well over their 
waists, as they were sitting in the jeep. It was a real scream and pretty 
hilarious to us standing there watching as the CO, SGTMAJ, and 
driver jumped to their feet, and were standing on the partially 
submerged hood of the jeep. 

The Battalion CO was screaming at the Navy officer in charge 
on the ship's ramp as the CO, SGTMAJ, and the driver jumped off 
the hood of the jeep onto the ramp. The CO was wildly waving his 
arms around and yelling at the Navy officer in a raging fury. Orders 
were quickly given for one of our HHC's trucks that had a 
front-mounted winch to connect the winch and pull the jeep out of 
the water. That was quickly done, but the CO's jeep was totally fucked 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 385 



up. It would need major overhauling to get it back into working 
condition. With the CO still raging at the Navy officer, they were 
arguing on what the next move was going to be. It took some time as 
the CO entered the ship to talk with the ship's captain on the bridge. 

By now, the line companies had finished loading, their ship's 
ramps were closed, and the ships started to be pulled back off the 
beach into deep water. We were all still standing on the beach 
waiting for the next move to be ordered, with the ass backwards 
beaching process by the LST still being discussed, probably 
vehemently, somewhere on the ship's bridge by the Brass. 

After about fifteen minutes or so, the CO reappeared on the 
ramp, and was shouting out orders to Top and the platoon sergeants. 
Then, the ship's ramp was raised up, and the ship began to be pulled 
off the beach back into deep water. Once the ship was a couple of 
thousand yards back into deep water, it started to make another run 
at the beach. It was clear to see, as the ship approached the beach, 
that it was travelling faster than it was during the first attempt. That 
time, when the LST hit the shallow water, it continued well onto the 
beach at full throttle, making us all jump back again, but this 
time even further, as the bow of the ship looked like it was surely 
going to run right over us. 

Now, the LST was firmly landed many feet deep onto the shore. 
The ship beaching scared the living shit out of everyone, including 
the platoon sergeants and officers, who were trying to act cool and 
collected, but were now running for safety just like everyone else. 
With the bow doors wide open, the ship looked like a gigantic gray 
dragon with its gaping mouth open, ready to swallow us all up with 
one big bite. It was a real scream. We were all laughing our asses off 
as the sergeants were shouting out orders to get us back in formation, 
which was quickly done. It looked like a scene from the 1960's TV 
series 'McHale 's Navy' with Commander McHale, Ernest Borgnine, 
trying to get the mess straightened out while Captain 
Binghamton was going crazy. 

Then, the order was given for the vehicles to start loading. Once 
that was done, we all marched off the beach onto the ramp, and into 
the bowels of the ship. There were Navy guys directing us for which 
way to go. We were directed to metal stairs that led up to the top 



386 Bud Monaco 



deck. We all started milling around, checking out the top deck, 
making our way around the vehicles that were being tied down 
securely by Navy sailors with heavy metal stanchions to the deck of 
the ship. We were standing along the ship's railings looking over the 
side, down at Rio Hato beach thirty feet below us, and looking up at 
the bluffs where the base camp was located. 

At first it was pretty cool, but we then noticed that the Navy 
sailors were all running around, and the officers were shouting out 
orders. Something wasn't right, and it seemed to be something pretty 
serious. It turned out to be real serious. We hooked up with a sailor 
real fast, and asked him what the 
fuck was going on. He told us the 
ship was in deep shit and a beyond- 
major fuck up had occurred. 

He further told us that during 
the second run to the beach, the 
ship's captain had ordered the anchor 
crew to drop the anchor too soon, and 
when the anchor chain had reached 
its end connected to the stern of the 
ship, the anchor grabbed hold in the ocean floor, and ripped the 
anchor chain out of its housing, doing big damage to the housing, as 
the ship continued to plow forward and smash onto the beach. The 
anchor chain was fifteen hundred feet long, but the captain had 
mistakenly ordered the crew to release the anchor seventeen hundred 
yards from the beach. Now, with the ship further on the beach than it 
should have been, as the captain had ordered the helm to keep the 
ship's speed up to be sure it reached the beach properly, and with the 
high tide quickly receding, there was no way the ship could be pulled 
off of the beach by the anchor and chain, which was now sunken 
below the ocean's surface in hundreds of feet of water. 

As we were watching the tide roll out from the rails of the ship, 
we could clearly see that almost half of the ship's length was now 
out of the water, Sind firmly stuck and beached on the sand. The tidal 
surge on the coast of Panama was the highest in the world at fifteen 
feet twice a day. At first, we didn't know what to think, but the 
sailors were now running around more frantically than before with 




DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 387 



some real worried looks on their faces. We didn't know at the time, 
but we were in some dangerously deep shit. 

What was now happening was the ship started to list to 
starboard, and could possibly fall right over on its side. Holy shit! 
That wasn't good at all. Within a few hours, a pair of five ton Army 
trucks arrived. They were driven by the Army Corps of Engineers 
unit, and there was a command jeep with an engineer major in charge. 
As we watched closely from the rails of the ship. Navy sailors threw 
some large, five inch diameter ropes over the side they had connected 
to steel cleat-stanchions connected to the deck of the ship. The 
engineers collected up the ropes, tied them onto the rear bumpers of 

the five ton trucks, slowly moving 
the trucks away from the ship, until 
the ropes were pulled taunt, 
successfully anchoring the ship 
from both sides. The five ton trucks 
securing the ship, in its slightly 
listed position, were the only things 
preventing the ship from falling 
over on its side. What a shit storm 
we had gotten into. Or, I should say, what a shit storm 
the Navy had gotten us into. 

So, we figured that we would just start unloading our vehicles 
and soldiers back onto the beach, and drive back to Fort Kobbe as 
originally planned. Yeah, right. That would be the easy way out of 
that mess, but the Brass had other brilliant ideas of course. The Brass 
was hell bent on completing the amphibious mission and no one 
would be going anywhere for the next thirty-six hours. We 
would be spending the night and most of the next day stuck 
on the LST. Fuck us. 

Through scuttlebutt, which was flying around as plentiful as 
shit flying through a Sea Gull's ass, we were informed that the ship's 
captain had radioed Navy Headquarters back at Rodman Naval 
Station. He requested Navy frogmen and a Navy recovery ship get 
his ship off the beach and back in the water. The Navy deep sea 
divers and recovery ship would not be able to arrive at our location 
until the following morning. We just knew the line companies were 




388 Bud Monaco 



laughing their asses off at us, as their ships disappeared beyond the 
horizon after seeing our ship sitting on the shore like a fucking 
beached whale. It was just about noon by now, and we were stuck on 
the beach for the duration, however long that would take. 

On deck, it was a frying pan, with the intolerable heat from the 
torturing sun beating down. Below decks, in the sleeping quarters, it 
was even worse. It was like being in the stifling heat of a broiling 
oven. The rest of the afternoon went by pretty fast, but the evening 
seemed to drag on forever, with nowhere to get any slack from the 
tropical heat. It was a real bitch! 

The LST was not set up to handle, for any amount of time, a 
couple hundred soldiers, or keep them fed and supplied with 
sleeping quarters. It was only supplied for a few hours at a time of 
amphibious training missions, and there were no sheets, pillows or 
blankets available. We did have a lunch mess call that wasn't too 
bad, but the dinner mess call was pretty thin for food with only 
sandwiches and soda available for the soldiers on board. Breakfast 
mess call the next morning was real thin also, with only powdered 
eggs and burnt toast to be had. Lunch mess call the following day 
was non-existent, and we wound up breaking into our C-Ration boxes 
stashed aboard our vehicles for lunch. 

There were dozens and dozens of Navy regulations to follow 
while being on board a Navy ship that had to be strictly adhered to at 
all times. There was no smoking below decks. You could only smoke 
on the open top deck. There was no sleeping on the open top deck or 
inside any vehicles. You could only sleep in the sleeping quarters 
below deck. Anyone caught sleeping on deck would be totally fucked 
over by our sergeants, and or the Navy officers keeping a close watch 
over us. That was a major safety issue so no one rolled over 
while sleeping and fell overboard. 

You could not piss over the side of the ship. You could only use 
the latrines, which soon backed up, and were over-flowing with piss, 
shit, and puke. The puking didn't become a factor until the following 
day once we were sailing on the ocean, but it piled up real fast once 
a lot of the soldiers started getting seasick. Both of the lower decks 
smelled heavily of puke and shit that stunk to the high heavens, and 
was absolutely gagging. We were only allowed in designated areas 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now ! 389 

of the ship, and the Navy sailors made sure we didn't roam around in 
restricted areas. We were confined to our designated areas. That was 
the way it would be. No excepfions. 

The captain of the ship had us called to formation on the top 
deck before sunset, telling us he was sorry for the delay and the 
problems incurred. He said he would have his sailors set up a movie 
screen and projector on deck so we could watch a movie during the 
evening for some entertainment. When the movie started, we got to 
talking with a few of the sailors, and they told us that scuttlebutt had 
it that the ship's captain was really fucked, and was sure 
to be relieved of command as soon as we arrived back at 
Rodman Naval Station. 

He fucked up real good and he would be eating shit for a long 
time to come. Just one major fuck up like that would not be good for 
his Navy career. It only took one fuck up like that for a Navy officer's 
career to be a short one. Tough shit for him. Too bad for him, but that 
was the way shit hit the fan in the military. 

During the night, after the movie, we all just kind of milled 
about on the top deck, smoking and talking shit till the wee hours of 
the morning. We tried to go below decks to the sleeping quarters to 
grab some shut eye, but with the heat still broiling below decks, no 
one got much sleep at all. 

The following morning at first light, we were able to see the 
Navy recovery ship about two thousand yards off the stern. One of 
the sailors told us the Navy frogmen had arrived well before first 
light, and were presently diving in the water, trying to locate the 
ship's anchor and chain. Sometime about three hours later by 
mid-morning, the recovery ship came up behind the LST. The Navy 
divers had found the anchor and chain, connected a thick wire cable 
to the end of the chain, passing it up to the waiting sailors on the 
stern of the LST. The recovery ship had somehow winched the 
anchor chain out of the seabed to drag it closer to the LST. 

They had been working on the anchor winch chain machine 
during the early morning hours, and repaired it well enough to work. 
They reconnected the end of the cable, winched it onto the winch 
machine, reeling it in until the end of the anchor chain appeared out 
of the water. They disconnected the cable from the anchor chain. 



390 Bud Monaco 



unwound the cable off of the winch, and reconnected the anchor chain 
to the winch. We figured they would start to winch in the chain and 
start pulling the ship off of the beach. We were wrong. 

There would be no winching going on until the high tide came 
back in. By then, none of us had a clue as to when that would be. 
Sometime in mid-afternoon, the tide started to come in, and there 
was a flurry of activity by the Navy sailors. Once the ship had the 
high tide all around it, the ropes connected to the five ton engineer 
trucks were released, the ship's engines were started, put into gear, 
and the winch started to reel in the anchor chain and anchor. As the 
ship finally started to move off the beach with some awful grinding 
sounds from the engine of the winch, and the bottom of the ship 
dragged across the ocean floor. The grinding sound from under the 
ship was caused by the scouring action of the LST propellers, 
creating sandbars and runnels under the hull. Then a big roar of shouts 
and cheers could be heard all over the ship from both the Navy 
sailors and the Army soldiers. Mission accomplished. We were 
finally seaborne and on our way. 

We sailed out into the Pacific Ocean and were heading to 
Rodman Naval Station. It was mid-afternoon by now, and we took 
time to wolf down some more of our C-Rations. Cigarettes were at a 
premium, as well as fresh water, and both were rationed accordingly. 
Then, the puking began. It wasn't a pretty sight or smell, but all 
we could do was hope this macabre amphibious mission 
would soon be over. 

Always adventurous, us Army guys had buddied-up with a few 
Navy sailors, and asked them where we could burn a Johnson or two. 
They told us that two of us at a time could sneak up into one of the 
unused, long-time weaponless gun turrets, located below 
the bridge, where we would not be seen. So, two at a time, we 
snuck up there and quickly smoked a few puffs, which made 
everything seem much better. 

There was a rack in the gun turret that had an oversized combat 
helmet hanging there. The helmet was huge compared to our normal 
helmets. That was because a gun or radio man wearing a radio 
earphone headset could wear the helmet over the headset. So, 
of course, we all had to try it on, laughing our asses off at each other, 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 391 



as the large helmet came down to our shoulders, covering our faces 
without a head set to hold it up in its proper position. Army soldiers 
would always find a way to fuck around and have some fun no 
matter what the situation was at any time. 

The blazing sun wound up setting again, and we still had not 
arrived at Rodman, after being on the moving ship for well over five 
hours. After the hours slowly moved on, we arrived at the approach 
to the Panama Canal from the Bay of Panama. We could now see the 
lights of Panama City a few miles in front of us to the starboard side 
of the ship. As we approached the Bridge Of The Americas, it was 
a magnificent sight, seeing all the lights lit up brightly from one end 
of the bridge span to the other. As we sailed under the bridge, it was 
just amazing to see it from underneath in the water channel. It was 
further amazing, realizing just how big the bridge was. It was really 
outstanding standing on the deck of the LST looking directly up at 
the gigantic feat of engineering. 

Finally, to our great relief, the orders were passed around to 
prepare for our debarkation within the hour. We all got our shit 
together and were directed to form up below on the lower deck. We 
were told that once the doors opened and the ramp went down, we 
were to run off of the ship as if we were landing on a hostile beach 
under enemy fire. Oh fucking joyl What else could these asshole lifers 
come up with next? That was the kind of shit that made the Army 
suck. There was absolutely no need to carry out that chicken-shit 
war game any further, after the shit we had been through. But the 
fucking lifers loved that shit. They thought they were in the 1954 
WW II movie, 'Beachhead,' with Frank Lovejoy and Tony Curtis, 
storming the beaches of Bougainville, or even in the 1962 WW II 
movie, ' The Longest Day J with Robert Mitchum hitting the Normandy 
coast at Omaha beach with the 29^ Infantry Division, telling his troops 
when they were pinned down and had to get off the beach, "There 
are only two kinds of soldiers who will be left on this beach. Those 
that are dead, and those that are going to be dead! Let's go, 29!" 

We felt the ship bump into something solid, and when the doors 
opened and the ramp went down, we gladly, with much enthusiasm, 
busted ass, and ran off that goddamned ship like our lives depended 
on it. We couldn't get off that ship fast enough and get our boots 



392 Bud Monaco 



back on solid ground. Turned out, we were at a concrete docking 
area with a large open concrete staging area. The lifer's silly plan to 
make them look good was a total bust. It was pitch-black dark, and 
there wasn't one swinging dick, other than us, anywhere in 
sight at that time of night. 

The vehicles quickly debarked from the ship, and the SGTs had 
us muster up into formation for a roll call and head count. "All present 
and accounted for," was shouted out by the platoon sergeants. The 
next order was to, "Fall out and load up," and we all hopped into our 
designated vehicles for the short ride back to Fort Kobbe. 

Arriving back at Fort Kobbe, after the two days it took us, it was 
almost midnight, and we immediately started to unload our gear and 
the big guns from the vehicles. First orders were to load the big guns 
into the Mortar bay. We would do a thorough cleaning of the guns 
and equipment first thing in the morning. The vehicle drivers took 
the vehicles back to the Motor Pool. We would have to go back 
there second thing in the morning to do complete maintenance on 
all our platoon vehicles. We then turned in our weapons 
to the Armorer's vault. 

Not until we were done with those details were we allowed to 
head back in the barracks to shower and hit our bunks to sleep. We 
would all sleep soundly. None of us had slept much since first call 
back at Rio Hato and during the time on the LST. We also knew we 
weren't going to get much sleep, maybe three or four hours, as we 
knew first call and reveille was sure to come early, as usuaL The 
fucking lifers gave no quarter. They loved that shit and were 
surely whacked in the head. 

The lifers surely were not going to give us any time off to sleep 
in. They just loved to stand in formation for reveille and salute that 
goddamned flag. We would have to clean our weapons, combat gear, 
and clean up the barracks with sweeping, mopping, and latrine 
scrubbing, first thing in the morning. And then, there was the 
Motor Pool detail to deal with. 

The hot showers were just heaven. We took a long time 
enjoying the hot water, cleaning the scum off of our rank bodies from 
our time out in the field, and the two fucking days aboard the LST. 
I found it to be unbelievable that WW II troops spent weeks and 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 393 



months at a time on ships like this. What a nightmare that 
had to have been. 

If we weren't overly enjoyed about returning back to Fort Kobbe, 
having our time out in the field shortened by four weeks, we 
ecstatically enjoyed the following day, when we found out after 
reveille, we would not be going on a full Combat Alert. 

Through one of the company clerks, we learned that the Ruskies 
had backed down, and would not be using the Panama Canal with 
their warships or freighter. The American Military Command had 
insisted on searching the freighter before it would be able to enter 
the Panama Canal, and the Ruskies would have none of that. If that 
didn't make them look guilty of some sort of hidden, covert agenda, 
their refusal to let the American inspectors board their freighter ship 
outside the designated territorial waters made it pretty evident they 
were guilty of something. They backed down without a whimper, 
turning tail without haste, like the guilty fucks they were. 

None of us gave a flying fuck about their espionage bull shit. 
We were just glad we didn't have to deal with a full Combat Alert. 
And, we were out of the field. We actually were real happy they tried 
to pull their shit, and the outcome was a big benefit for all of us. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 395 



Chapter 57 

New Army Job: Let The Real Ghosting Begin 

The first days of May, 1970, arrived, and during one morning, 
while we were working in the Mortar bay, SSGT Packardie came 
in asking us if anyone knew how to operate a typewriter. He was 
looking for a volunteer. Oh shit, there was that ubiquitous volunteer 
word again. Of course, once the volunteer word came into play, no 
one was anxious to ring in. I knew how to type, and I was actually 
pretty good at it. I had three years of typing classes when I was in 
high school and could type over seventy words per minute. But I was 
surely remembering my father's advice about not volunteering 
for anything in the Army. 

A few minutes later, when I had the chance to ask the SSGT 
what the typing thing was about without the other guys noticing, he 
gave me a fast rundown. He said that one of his HHC duties, along 
with being the 4.2" mortar platoon SGT, was being in charge of the 
Training room, also known as the Operations room when there 
was a Combat Alert or when the Battalion was gearing up for 
a Combat Training Mission. 

He explained the job needed a soldier who could type, would be 
in charge of typing up training schedules weekly, and be required to 
keep all the hundreds of Army field manuals on the shelves up to 
date. The Training room typist would also be required to type and 
update the HHC daily roster that had to be finished, exactly done 
each day immediately after morning roll call, and brought to the CO's 
office as soon as it was finished. He said that, "As soon as it was 
finished meant, on the double, and there would be no fucking around. 
The updated daily roster was to be on the CO's desk before PT was 
completed, and before breakfast mess call. No exceptions." He also 
told me that I was to assign weapons, and keep track of weapon's 
qualifications and PT card files for all the soldiers assigned to 
HHC and Battalion HQs. 

I asked him how I would get this done if I was out in formation 
for reveille, doing the daily PT, and running to the beach and back. 
He said that one of the perks of being the Training room clerk was 
that I would not have to stand in formation for reveille, and would 



396 Bud Monaco 



not be required to do the daily PT. Wow! It was sounding pretty cool. 
Figuring what the hell, I busted the move and told him I was up for 
the assignment. It turned out to be the best move I ever made during 
my time in the Army. I would never regret it, and it would have 
me getting over like very few soldiers could ever get over in a 
lifetime in the Army. 

The platoon sergeant took me upstairs to the Training room on 
the main floor of the HHC's building. It was a ten by twenty foot 
room located right next to the CO's, IstSGT's, and Company Clerks 
office. It was located in the corner of the HHC building with 
windows on two sides facing the battalion street, and one of the 
A Company buildings to the north. Pretty cool setup, with a nice 
view to see just about everything going on from one end of the 
battalion street to the other. I had only been in the Training room a 
couple of times. The first time was when I was assigned my weapon 
and filled out my individual soldier training card, which was kept in 
a four drawer high filing cabinet, containing all the weapons 
assignments and training cards for all the soldiers assigned to 
HHC and Battalion HQs. 

On top of one of the two large, business office type, battleship 
gray, metal Army desks, there was a monstrosity of an IBM electric 
typewriter, with an eighteen-inch long carriage, that I had never seen 
before. It kind of looked like a weapon of sorts at first sight. I had 
learned to type on some old Royal, beat-to-shit manual typewriters 
in high school, but that monster of a machine looked pretty 
formidable. I didn't have a clue how to operate it. Damn, I didn't 
even know how to plug it in or turn it on. I was going to look like a 
big jackoff to the platoon sergeant if I couldn't figure out how to 
operate the machine, and real fast. 

The SSGT told me to plug it in, turn it on and show him if 
I could actually type. So, I found the electric cord, plugged it into an 
electrical socket in the wall, looking over the controls for the power 
switch. There were dozens of switches all over the keyboard, and 
I was out of my element trying to figure out which one turned the 
power on. The SSGT reaches over the desk and presses the power 
switch on. He looks at me and says, "Do you actually know what the 
fuck you are doing?" I told him that I had no experience with an 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 397 



electric typewriter like that, but I would figure it out. It only took me 
a minute or so to figure out how to load a sheet of paper into the 
carriage, and started typing some words onto the paper. With a manual 
typewriter you had to push down hard on the keys to make it type, 
but with the electric typewriter, all you had to do was gently touch 
the keys to make it work. 

I continued to hammer out some words, and a few minutes later, 
the SSGT said, 'That's fine, you know how it works. The job is yours 
for now. Don't fuck up and make me look bad, or you'll be right 
back down in the Mortar Platoon bay cleaning weapons until your 
fingers bleed." He then told me about the Army Field Manuals on the 
shelves, and there were exact Army regulations as to how FMs 
had to be properly stored and stocked. There should have been 
hundreds of them, but there were only dozens of them, and those 
were all out of date. 

I didn't know at the time, but that turned out to be a big deal. 
The Training room had not had a regular clerk working in there for a 
long time. The place was totally fucked up and nothing was up to 
date. It was a total mess. The SSGT walked me through the weapon's 
assignment files and the PT card files. They were also totally fucked 
up, and were all out of order, if there was any order to them at all, as 
they were all jammed into the file drawers with no visual system to 
them at all. The Training room job was starting to not look so good 
after all. Goddamned, I sure was starting to think that volunteering 
for the job was going to bite me in the ass. The platoon sergeant 
didn't really know how to run the Training room. It would be strictly 
an on the job learning experience for me on my own. 

The Training room was supposed to have assigned to it, one 1 st 
or 2nd lieutenant, a staff sergeant, a buck sergeant, a specialist fourth 
class, and one private first class dealing with all that shit. But, that 
had not been the case for a long time. Due to the shortage of military 
personnel in Panama, with so many soldiers rotating or transferring 
out to Vietnam, those assigned slots had not been filled, leaving the 
Training room in complete disarray. So here I am, a lowly, 
know-nothing. Private First Class E-3, taking on a job that an officer, 
two sergeants, and two enlisted men should have been doing. What 
did I get myself into? It took some time, but I learned quickly and 



398 Bud Monaco 



never looked back with any regrets. In the long run, I made it work 
for me the best I could and wound up having a pretty good Army job 
for my last twelve months in the Army. 

The SSGT told me that since I had been awarded the Battalion 
Soldier of the Month that he would talk to Top and see if I could be 
promoted to specialist fourth class, as I should have more rank than 
a PFC running the Training room. 

For the rest of the day I plucked around on the electric 
typewriter, figured out how to operate it, and spent some time 
practicing my typing skills. The rest of the platoon soldiers were 
busy busting their asses doing vehicle maintenance at the Motor Pool, 
cleaning weapons, barracks and mortar guns, and I was sitting up in 
the Training room with a cake job, banging away on a typewriter, all 
clean, being nice and cool. It was great and I loved it. 

During lunch mess call, the scuttlebutt was flying around that 
there was going to be a change of command in HHC. The CO, the 
jerk everyone in HHC and the battalion officers hated, was being 
relieved of duty, and that we would be getting a new HHC CO. After 
lunch, no one ever saw the old CO, jerk wad captain again. He just 
disappeared, and was history to the command. Good riddance. No 
one felt the slightest remorse about his sorry ass being gone. 

The following morning, I quickly learned how to put the roll 
call manifest together, type it up and bring it to the CO's office. There 
was no new CO yet assigned, and IstSGT Reymeres was in charge 
of HHC for now. Top looked over the manifest, said that I had done 
a good job, and to keep up the good work or he would have my 
sorry ass on the carpet real quick. 

The next few days I started to sort out the weapon's 
qualification, weapon's assignment, and FT files. I had to empty 
all the file drawers, and literally had to start from scratch, but 
I eventually figured out a decent system to put them in a proper filing 
order. There were many previous files of soldiers who were no longer 
assigned to Fort Kobbe that I sent over to the Personnel office for 
them to forward to wherever the, now long gone, soldiers were 
reassigned. Many of the present soldiers' files were not updated 
for weapon qualifications or PT. 

Whenever a new soldier was assigned to a company, he first 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 399 




had to sign in with the Training room, set up his training file, and 
drop off his weapon qualification file before reporting for duty 
as ordered to the Company CO. 

I went to see Top and asked him what, if anything, should be 
done about this. He told me to pull the soldiers' weapon qualification 
files that were not up to date, make a list and schedule a weapon 
qualification training detail for the following week. That would 

include notifying each soldier who 
needed to re-qualify his weapon 
with a time, date, location, and make 
arrangements with the S-4 Supply 
personnel for ordering ammunition. 
I would then have to figure out how 
many soldiers would need to qualify, 
and how much ammo would be 
needed. I would also have to 
schedule a truck driver with a deuce 
and a half truck from the support 
platoon sergeant. Top said that he would assign a sergeant to be in 
charge of the detail and in charge of the firing range. I would also 
have to schedule the time and date for using the firing range at 
Empire Range. There was a command center over at Fort Amador 
somewhere that I had to call to make the firing range scheduling. 

Top also told me that a new training schedule was needed for 
the following week. I would have to learn how to type one up, make 
copies to pass around, post in designated areas, and make sure 
everyone knew what the fuck they were supposed to be doing. 
Geeezzzusss, that was sure a lot of shit for a PEC to contend with, 
but with the IstSGT having my back, no one questioned me. They 
bitched about it pretty good though. 

I started trying to figure out what the field manual shit was all 
about. I located the EM directory master book that was four inches 
thick, and had all the listings of exactly what each Training room 
was supposed to have on hand. Everything in the Army was done by 
the book, and those EMs were thee books that spelled out every fucking 
Army operation, by the numbers, from toothpicks to guided missiles. 
The EM master said that HHC should have hundreds of those 



400 Bud Monaco 



FMs, but there were only a couple of dozen of them on the shelves, 
and they were all out of date. It would be a real treat to figure out 
where to get the needed FMs, and which FMs were needed 
according to the regulations spelled out in chapter and verse in the 
FM master book. There would be a lot of work ahead for me, but 
I was not bummed about it. I still had one of the best cake walk jobs 
in HHC and the Battalion. I was a pretty smart guy. I would figure it 
out and get the job done. I surely did not want to go back to all the 
scut detail work like the rest of the other common soldiers. 
It was real cozy up there in the Training room, and I planned 
to keep it that way. 

My first week in the Training room flew by, and before I knew 
it, Monday arrived, and another new week began. I quickly dialed 
into getting the roll call manifest together every day, and learned 
how to set up the training schedule. Once I figured it out, it was 
a cinch to knock out, and once I got the FMs and soldier's files in 
order, the way I saw it, I would have so much ghosting time on my 
hands it would be really something else. It was so cool to not have to 
fall into formation every morning, stand reveille and do PT. I was 
also exempt from morning barracks cleaning. All I had to do 
was make my bunk, get dressed, head down to the Training 
room, and sit behind my desk. 

I really had no one to directly answer to, and was on my own for 
most of my work day. It continued to get better every day. SSGT 
Packardie was my immediate superior, but that old Army veteran 
knew how to ghost just as well as any lower ranking EM, and I hardly 
ever saw him. That was just fine by me. As long as I got my work 
done, and did my job well, I was in fucking hog heaven. 

As soon as I finished the morning report, which listed every 
HHC soldier fit for duty, those going on sick call, those detailed out 
on other assignments, and those on furlough, I would deliver it in 
person to the IstSGT's office. We still did not have a new CO yet. 
Then, I could walk right across the hallway into the mess hall and be 
one of the first soldiers to pass through the chow line for breakfast 
mess call every day. One of the company clerks told me that I also 
would not have to do guard duty detail either, since the company 
clerks and the Training room clerks were exempt from that duty. It 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 401 




was just another wonderful perk I was able to take advantage of now 
that I was permanently assigned to the Training room. The job just 
kept getting better all the time, and it all came about only because 
I knew how to type. Wonderful. Just wonderful. 

I learned the ropes real fast, making all the contacts I needed to 
make for the weapon qualifications, and scheduled it for the 
upcoming Saturday morning. Top told me to include the firing range 
training in the weekly training schedule. I learned that there 

would be a company inspection 
on Saturday morning, so by 
scheduling the qualifications for 
Saturday morning, the soldiers 
needing to qualify would not 
have to stand inspection. I also 
scheduled myself to re-qualify my 
weapon, and would not have to 
stand inspection either. They all 
liked that bit of maneuvering on my 
part, and for the next twelve months I would be able to make many 
soldiers greatly appreciative of me with my conniving Training room 
moves. The learning curve continued daily, and with my slick 
operating, it made my time in service a lot easier to endure. 

There was still a lot of Army bullshit to contend with every day, 
but I was able to control some of it some of the time for my own 
benefit and the benefit of a lot of my fellow soldiers. That was just 
the beginning. I planned on making it better for myself in 
the following months one way or another with whatever I could 
get away with, staying under the radar, not getting caught, 
or hanging myself out to dry. 

The weekdays passed and it was Saturday morning. Right after 
mess call, the S-4 truck driver, with his truck loaded with boxes of 
ammunition, pulled up in front of HHC. Myself, with the other 
soldiers to qualify at the range, piled in the back, quickly getting out 
of Dodge while the rest of HHC prepared for inspection. 

The SGT in charge of the detail had no problem with us setting 
up on the firing range, quickly qualifying our weapons, and 
spending the next few hours sitting around the range doing nothing. 



402 Bud Monaco 



We split from the range and arrived back at Fort Kobbe just in time 
for lunch mess call. We cleaned our weapons, turned them back into 
the Armorer's vault, and had the rest of the day off. Not a bad day. 
Not a bad day at all. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 403 



Chapter 58 

The New CO, And Getting Short 

When Monday of the third week of May rolled around, I was 
busy working on a new training schedule when a soldier 
walked into the room. At first, I didn't immediately look up, but after 
a few seconds I looked up, and standing in front my desk was a tall, 
iron-jawed, hair cut high and tight, stract looking captain in full dress 
Army dress greens. I jumped up from my chair, came to attention in 
a flash, wound up knocking my chair over, quickly saluted him, and 
said, "Good morning, sir! What can I do for you, sir?" He told me to, 
"Stand at ease, soldier. I am the new HHC CO. My name is Captain 
Gunner, and I would like to drop off my weapon qualification and 
PT files with you." I responded immediately and said, "No problem, 
sir. No problem at all, sir! Welcome to HHC, sir." 

Captain Gunner had a uniform on with a chest full of 
decorations and ribbon medals that blew me away. His medal 
ribbons included a Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, a Soldier's 
Medal, a Bronze Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster, a Purple Heart with 
two Oak Leaf Clusters, an Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, an 
Army Commendation Medal, continuing rows of Vietnam 
Campaign Medals, and numerous other, / was there, medal ribbons 
I was unfamiliar with. 

He was wearing an Army Ranger Tab and Airborne Tab above 
his previous combat unit patch on his shoulder. His Airborne Jump 
Wings silver pin shined brightly with his rack of ribbons. He was 
also wearing his Combat Infantry Badge above the top row of 
ribbons, and its bright blue color, with a silver rifle surrounded by 
a silver wreath, stood out like a beacon of light. His Infantryman 
blue-braided rope wrapped around his shoulder completed the 
impressive display of hardware he was wearing. 

Holy shit, I said to myself, this was a big time Army Hero who 
had seen plenty of combat in Vietnam. I knew immediately that I was 
in the presence of Army greatness, and one tough, kick-ass, lifer 
officer. I was just dboui pissing in my pants, but he had a somewhat 
genial way about him, and said to me, "I said you can stand at ease, 
soldier." Only then did I realize that I was still standing at rigid 



404 Bud Monaco 



attention, gawking at his array of decorations. I said, "Oh, sorry, sir. 
What else can I do for you, sir?" Then I stood at ease. He said he 
would like to schedule his weapon qualification as soon as possible, 
and I told him that I would take care of it. He also asked me where 
the rest of the Training room staff was. I told him, "I'm it, sir. 
There is no one else, sir." He didn't say anything else about it, 
and was about to leave. 

IstSGT Reymeres then walked into the room, as he just 
happened to be passing by, came to attention, sharply saluted the 
new CO, and announced himself. Captain Gunner told him to stand 
at ease, offered his hand to Top, and they shook hands like they knew 
each other well. Two old-dog combat Veterans sharing camaraderie 
between them few other soldiers would ever know. Pretty cool. 

Top then told me, "PFC, here's how to take care of the new 
CO's weapon qualification and FT files," as he leans over my desk, 
pencils in the designated places on the cards that the CO had 
qualified Expert and all his PT performances were completed, and 
dated it with the present date. New learning curve here for me. This 
was how a fix was put in for ranking officers and NCOs. I put 
this into my memory banks for future use. 

Captain Gunner and IstSGT Reymeres turned, and started to 
walk out of the Training room. I had not noticed before, but the new 
CO had a wooden cane hanging on his forearm. He took hold of it 
with his hand, walking out of the room with a noticeable limp. Later 
that afternoon. Top stopped back in the Training room and asked me 
what I thought of the new CO. I said that I was pretty impressed with 
his decorations, and that he seemed to be a nice officer. Top then told 
me that I didn't know the half of it, and the new CO was a real deal 
Army officer and held in the highest regard. The CPT had been 
awarded all those medals he wore for exceptional gallantry and 
leadership, numerous times during his two combat tours under heavy 
enemy fire in Vietnam. He had saved a lot of soldier's lives in 
combat many times over with his leadership and combat skills. 

Top also said that he used the cane because he had been 
seriously wounded in Vietnam, and had his hip and leg blown to shit 
by a Viet Cong fired RPG during his second combat tour. The CO 
had undergone major reconstructive surgery, had a complete hip 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 405 



replacement, spending many months recovering from his wounds. 

Back in the late 60's and early 70's, hip replacement surgery 
was a major operation, and nothing like modern hip surgery. The 
Army combat doctors wanted to cut his leg off from the hip down 
after he was wounded, but the CO would have none of that, and 
demanded that they fix him up the best they could without cutting off 
his leg. The CPT suffered greatly as his wounds healed, and spent 
many months in physical therapy just to be able to walk again, and 
continue physically as an Army officer. The Army wanted to retire 
the CPT, because he would not be able to perform his duties as an 
Army officer with barely two good legs, but the CPT busted 
his ass with his physical therapy, and was able to continue 
performing his duties. 

It was amazing to learn that the CPT had actually been able to 
pass his physical training testing, continue his Army career, was still 
able to stay on jump status, performing duties as an airborne 
qualified soldier, and had made his required airborne jumps to stay 
on full jump status. There were soldiers who couldn't do this with 
two good legs. Captain Gunner was absolutely one tough 
motherfucking Army soldier. But, in their infinite wisdom, the Army 
had been stalling on promoting the CPT to the rank of major, which 
he deserved for his heroics and his time in service, and they were 
still trying to retire him out of the Army. Top told me there weren't 
five captains in the whole goddamned Army, totaled together, that 
would not be as good a soldier as Captain Gunner was with one leg. 

The following morning, we mustered up for formation, and with 
the Battalion CO, all the Battalion Brass, HHC, and all three Une 
companies on hand, there was a Change Of Command ceremony in 
the battalion street. There was no passing of the HHC Guidon from 
one Company Commander to another as per Military Drill and 
Ceremony regulations, as the previous CO was nowhere to be found 
and long gone by now. So, the Battalion CO did the honors, passing 
the HHC Guidon to Captain Gunner, officially giving him command 
of HHC. We all were standing at attention, and when the Battalion 
CO hollered out, ''Present armsT in a loud voice heard from one end 
of the battalion street to the other, we all sharply saluted our new 
HHC Commanding Officer. 



406 Bud Monaco 



Then, blowing all our minds, the Battalion CO, staff, HHC, and 
all three line companies, proceeded to make our run to the beach, 
with Captain Gunner right along side of HHC running right along 
with the troops, bad hip and all, without his cane. Holy shit, this was 
one tough soldier. No one would ever doubt his veracity and 
leadership capabilities from that moment on. 

The new CO did not have to do this run, but he proved to 
everyone in HHC, and the Battalion, that he was up to the job, 
and was ready to lead men, by example, into combat one way or 
another. He made the complete run to and back from Kobbe Beach, 
and never fell behind. 

With the new CO firmly locked into commanding HHC, there 
were many changes around HHC, making our company one tough, 
and stract Combat Ready Reaction Unit. A lot of maintenance was 
ordered, with cleaning, painting and fixing up the slightest things 
that needed to be done. We had numerous company inspections, 
and all our gear, weapons, and Army clothes were brought up 
to exact Army standards. 

At first, of course, there was a lot of bitching and complaining 
from a lot of the slackers, but with the sergeants handing out orders 
and details with the sternest of dictations, everything was brought up 
to the highest of Army standards during the following weeks. Not 
that HHC was at any low-level of Army standards in the first place, 
but it was now taken to the next level of excellence. 

I had not made much headway bringing the Training room Army 
field manuals up to snuff, but I was getting most of my 
work done, and had arranged the company training files into 
a very good workable order. 

The twenty-first of May 1970, rolled around, marking my first 
year of service in the Army. I now could, somewhat, look at myself 
as a shortimer. Not a real big deal, but by passing the first twelve 
months, the next twelve months would be all downhill, and the days 
would be seen by me in a descending decline. I had made it that 
far, and was pretty pleased with myself, especially with my new 
job in the Training room. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 407 



Chapter 59 

Generals Gathering In Their Masses 

''Never Let Your Guard Down In The Army. 
Feeling Safe Is A Dangerous Impulse To Have In The Army.'' 

Sometime during the first week of June, I was banging away on 
the typewriter when I heard someone come into the Training Room. 
When I looked up \just about went into shock. Right there standing 
in front of my desk was a one star general with a lieutenant colonel 
and a master sergeant. Holy fucking shit! A one star general standing 
right in front of me! I had never been this close to a general, or 
actually ever saw a general, other than on the reviewing stand at 
Basic and AIT during graduations. 

\ jumped up to my feet, came to attention, quickly saluted the 
general, knocking over my chair, and damn near poked my own eye 
out with my salute. I was shaking in my boots. I said, "PFC Monaco 
here, sir! What can I do for you, sir?'' He responded and said, "Where 
is the officer in charge. Private?" I said, "There is no officer in charge 
of the Training room, sir!'' He said, "Where is the sergeant in charge?" 
I responded, "There is no sergeant in charge, sir. I am the only one 
assigned to the Training room, sir!" He said back at me in a fairly 
loud voice, "That is totally unacceptable. Private!" I didn't know 
what else to say, but I did find myself able to say, "Would you like 
me to show you to the CO's office, sir?" He said, "That is not needed, 
soldier. I will find my own way to the CO's office." 

As the exchange between the general and me was going on, the 
lieutenant colonel and the master sergeant were looking over the field 
manuals on the shelves, going through the file cabinets, writing shit 
down, and taking notes on a clipboard. The general said, "I am the 
USSOCOM Inspector General. I am here for inspection of the 3rd 
Battalion, 5th Infantry. I have not found anything to my liking so far, 
and this unit is going to get squared away or heads are going to roll\" 

Well, someone must have seen the general and his staff enter 
the building, because moments later CPT Gunner and IstSGT 
Reymeres entered the Training room in a hurry, came to attention, 
sharply saluted the general, announcing themselves. He returned the 
salutes and told us all to, "Stand at ease." 



408 Bud Monaco 



The general told the CO that he was doing an unannounced, 
surprise IG inspection of all the combat units in Panama, and he was 
not pleased with what he had seen so far in our unit. He wanted the 
problems corrected immediately. The general turned to the master 
sergeant and asked him what he had found so far. The MSGT told the 
general that the FMs were in complete disarray, out of date, and that 
eighty percent of the FMs were non-existent in the Training room. 

The CO and Top heard that clearly, and the general said to them, 
"Why is this Training room not operating properly and why is there 
only one PFC assigned to this duty?" Top steps up and explains to 
the general that, "Sir, due to a shortage of personnel there were no 
other soldiers available to be assigned to the Training room. PFC 
Monaco is the only soldier in HHC who knows how to type, other 
than the two company clerks, and the soldiers assigned to the 
Personnel office, sir." The general said to the CO and Top, "Let's 
retire to your office, hash out these problems, and figure 
out how to correct them." 

About twenty minutes later, the general and his staff came 
storming out of the CO's office in a huff, headed down the stairs, 
hopped into the general's jeep, where a driver had been dutifully 
waiting for them, and with his general flags prominently flying from 
standards connected to the jeep's bumper, drove away to go bring a 
tank full of shit down on the other line companies and Battalion HQs. 

Moments later. Top comes storming into the Training room in a 
rage, pissed off like a motherfucker, wants to know why the FMs 
were not in order yet since I was assigned to the Training room, and 
what the fuck was I doing to get the situation corrected. I told Top 
that I had sent the proper form requests into the Army Tactical 
Control Center (ATCC) located over in Corazal, and had not heard 
back from them. Top screams out at me, "You did whatl You dumb 
fuck! Don't you know by now that nothing gets done by sending out 
paper work? This is the fucking U. S. Army, and nothing gets done by 
paper work! You have to go there in person to get anything done in 
the Army. You schedule for a driver and a jeep for tomorrow 
morning, get a list together right now of the FMs that are needed, 
and I don't care if it takes you all fucking night to do so. First thing in 
the morning, I will go to the ATCC with you personally to raise some 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 409 



shit with those assholes, and we'll get the ball rolling to get this FM 
shit corrected right goddamned now! When the IG returns in a few 
weeks this shit had better be in perfect goddamned order! We let that 
IG make CPT Gunner, myself, and HHC look like total shit, and that 
is totally unacceptable. Do you understand me clearly, 
PFC MonacoT All I could feebly say standing there scared shitless 
by the vicious side that I had not seen from Top before was, "Yes, 
IstSGT, I understand you clearly, /?v^ by five T as Top turned heel 
and stormed out of the Training room. 

Well fuck me! I had nothing to do with the Training room shit 
being so fucked up. I was not guilty of anything, except being an 
idiot. But, that was the Army, and whoever was \ht first soldier in the 
line of fire from higher up in the chain of deceit, being the Brass or 
any other superiors, would just have to eat shit, suck it up, and 
endure their wrath. I tried to get shit done the best I could in the short 
time I had been assigned to the Training room, but none of it 
happened /(ai-/ enough. I was in deep shit right up to my belt buckle. 

So, I quickly headed down to the Mortar bay, as I was still 
assigned to the platoon on the company manifest, and reported to 
SSGT Packardie who was still basically my next in command. I told 
him what had happened, and that I needed a jeep and driver first 
thing in the morning. He said he would take care of it. He asked me 
how I liked meeting the general. I said that it was a pretty 
scary situation, and I had been shaking in my boots. He had 
a good laugh over that. 

I spent the next five hours compiling the list of materials I needed 
from ATCC, and during that evening I told the guys in the barracks 
what had gone on that day. They all thought it was hysterical, and 
didn't give a rat's ass about the IG. They would soon change their 
tunes and feel the wrath, as if we had been busting ass since the 
arrival of the new CO, we would surely have the next three levels of 
the wrath from hell upon us during the next few weeks. 



DRAFTED: You 're In The Army Now! 411 



Chapter 60 

Big New Learning Curve 

The next day, after the morning routines, one of my mortar 
platoon pals pulled up out in front of HHC with a jeep from the 
Motor Pool. Top came out of his office, gathered me up from the 
Training room, and directed the driver to take us across the bridge to 
Corazal. Once we arrived at the ATCC, Top hopped out of the jeep 
before it came to a complete stop, and said to me, "Follow me, 
Monaco. I'll show you how to get shit done in this man's Army." 
I quickly followed him into the ATCC without another word. 

Top walked up to the front desk with complete authority, 
directly told the specialist fourth class behind the desk who he was 
and what we were there for. The SP4 didn't seem to have a clue about 
what to do about Top's demand. Actually, the SP4 did know his job, 
but Top caught him off guard. 

The SP4 quickly picks up the phone, talks to someone on the 
other end, and not a minute later another IstSGT comes out of one of 
the ATCC offices, takes one look at Top and says, "Reymeres, you 
old son of a bitch. What the fuck are you doing here? I thought you 
were retired by now, you old dog soldier." Top takes a look at the 
IstSGT and says, "Walker, you raggedy-ass malingering bastard. 
What the fuck are you doing in charge around here? I thought they 
busted you down from the shit you got into when we were on R & R 
from Vietnam in downtown Manila in the Philippines three years 
ago, the last time I saw you." They both shook hands vigorously, and 
were smiling at each other from ear to ear. It turns out, as was 
evident, that these two old warhorses. Top Dog Sergeants, 
knew each other well. 

Top then tells his old pal what we were there for. The ATCC 
IstSGT turns to the SP4 behind the desk and tells him, "You figure 
out what IstSGT Reymeres' PFC needs, get him squared away, and 
get it done right now on the fucking double! That's an order." The 
SP4 says, "I'm on it Top. I'll take care of it right now." With that, the 
two IstSGTs walk away, telling the two of us that they were going 
over to the Enlisted Men's Club, and to send a messenger over to let 
them know when we finished doing what we needed to do. Without 



412 Bud Monaco 



another word, the two old dog soldiers walked out of the ATCC, 
leaving me and the SP4 to our own devices. 

Once the two Tops were gone, the SP4 takes my list of FMs and 
looks them over. He then says, "Come back here with me and I'll get 
you squared away." We go into a huge storeroom that had stacks and 
stacks of shelving lined up wall-to-wall, and ceiling-to-floor, with 
what had to be every goddamned FM in the Army's inventory. He 
tells me to grab a box from the floor nearby as he started to pull FMs 
off the shelves, checking them off my list. After about an hour or 
more, we had filled four boxes of just about every FM that was on 
my list, and stacked them next to the door. 

There were over a hundred FMs in the boxes by now. The SP4 
told me to start loading the boxes into the jeep, and that he would fill 
out some forms requesting the few FMs that were not in stock. He 
would have them ordered and ready for me to pick up in a week or 
so. I knew now that Top was right about not fucking around with 
paperwork and getting the job done in person. Top's friendship with 
the other Top sure helped the cause, now paying off in dividends. 

After I carried the first three boxes out to the jeep, the SP4 came 
out of the building carrying the last box. He showed me the order 
request, had me sign it, and also had me sign another form for 
the FMs that I had acquired. 

He then asked me and the driver, very quietly, if we were juicers 
or dopers. We both looked at him and told him we were not juictrs. 
He laughed, asked us if we wanted to burn one. He said there was 
a place behind the building for us to do so without getting caught. 

At first, I was ready to jump at the opportunity, but then quickly 
had second thoughts about it. I told him that we would be riding back 
in the jeep with our IstSGT, and if he smelled the shit on us, he 
would probably beat the shit out of us severely about our heads and 
bodies across the Bridge Of The Americas, and all the way back to 
Fort Kobbe. The three of us laughed about that. I told him, the next 
time I returned to pick up the rest of the FMs when they arrived, 
I would show up with a driver and no NCO. Then, we would bum one. 

I now had a new direct connection at ATCC for getting the things 
I needed for the Training room, and a new soldier bro. The two of us 
would see each other over many months to come, as I would use the 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 413 



slightest excuse to return to the ATCC, and have a reason to do some 
major ghosting. It turned out to be another big perk being assigned 
to the Training room. I took advantage of many more perks I learned 
about as the months passed by, and took full advantage of every last 
one of them. I actually created some of my own designed perks that 
I was able to get away with without anyone taking notice. I fmagled 
around to make my own designed perks look like Standard 
Operating Procedures (SOPs), and no one was ever the wiser. 
I was having a ball. 

The SP4 then made a phone call over to the Enlisted Men's 
Club to tell the two Tops that we were finished with our orders. About 
a half-hour later, the two Tops arrived back at the ATCC, shook hands, 
said good-bye to each other, and we were on our way back to Fort 
Kobbe. It was well past lunch mess call by now, and Top told the 
driver to drive through Balboa. 

We went to the American restaurant in Balboa that I had been to 
with my other pals before. Top bought both me and driver 
hamburgers and fries, which the three of us wolfed down hungrily. It 
was pretty cool spending time with Top like that. That was definitely 
not something that happened often, if at all, in the Army. Officers 
and ranking sergeants did not socialize with each other off duty, and 
ranking sergeants did not socialize with lower ranking enlisted men. 
There were few exceptions to the rule, and that was one of them. 

Both the driver and I could faintly smell some booze on Top's 
breath when we first got into the jeep at ATCC and across the table at 
the restaurant. Yet here we were worried about him smelling shit on 
us. But Top having a drink was surely not the same thing as us 
smoking some shit. That was for goddamned sure. Booze was booze, 
but dope was not accepted for use by any soldier ever. It was taboo 
and would always be taboo in the military. 

It was kind of surprising to both me and the driver, but it was 
evident that even Top was capable of doing some ghosting, just like 
every other swinging dick in the Army. Although, with his high rank 
in grade, he could do whatever the fuck he wanted, and there weren't 
many superiors that he had to answer to. So, we took our time at the 
restaurant, confinuing to keep an eye on our jeep parked right out in 
front of the window on the street. Army jeeps did not have ignition 



414 Bud Monaco 



keys, and were started with a simple starter button on the floor next 
to the clutch pedal. It was a well-known, common practice for other 
Army fucks to steal a jeep in a heartbeat if no one was watching 
closely, and they could get away with it. We made sure that did not 
happen to our jeep. 

After a second round of fries and cokes, the three of us climbed 
back into the jeep and headed back to Fort Kobbe. By the time we 
returned, it was late afternoon. Top told me to bring the boxes of 
FMs into the Training room, and for the driver to return the jeep to 
the Motor Pool. Top told me and the driver to take the rest of the day 
off until dinner mess call, and that I could start sorting out the FMs 
in the Training room first thing in the morning. What a great day it 
turned out to be. I would look forward to many more days like that, 
but there would also be many more days of total Army bullshit to go 
along with the good days. Just another day in the Army. 

For the next few days, after I dialed up the daily company roster 
and worked on the training schedules, I spent time dumping all the 
out-of-date FMs, replacing them with the new FMs. I put them all in 
numerical order on the shelves in the Training room. They looked 
real impressive, neatly arranged on the shelves, compared to the sorry 
state they were previously in. There were only a few missing FMs, 
but I would be getting them soon, bringing the Training room FMs, 
along with all the weapon's qualification and PT files, up to 
exact Army regulations in perfect order. 

I saw Top walking by one afternoon, and asked him to stop in 
and check out what I had done. He was very impressed, told me that 
I had done an outstanding job, to keep up the good work, and he 
would let the CO know that the Training room was ready for the 
return of the IG. Of course, being the Top Dog of HHC, he just had 
to say to me, "And you better keep everything in perfect order, 
or I'll have your ass on the carpet, and put your ass in a 
sling real fast, young soldier." 

The second week of June rolled around, and I had my second 
birthday in the Army. I was now twenty-one years old, and could 
actually legally drink alcohol. It wasn't any big deal as I had been 
drinking anyway. The juke joint bars in Panama City never checked any 
IDs of soldiers, and could give two shits if a soldier was not twenty-one. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 415 



One mid-morning of that week, I happened to glance out one of 
the windows of the Training room and saw the inspector general's 
jeep pull up in front of the HHC building. You couldn 't miss it, with 
its general flags flapping in the wind that were attached to the jeeps 
front bumper. I quickly went over to the CO's office, and told Top 
that the IG was here again. He told me to go back to the Training 
room and wait for him to enter. 

The general, with the same lieutenant colonel and master 
sergeant, came up the stairs, making a bee-line for the Training room. 
I was not as scared that time around, and when the general entered 
the room, I was already standing up, came to attention, sharply 
saluting the general and saying, "Good morning, sir'' He returned 
the salute and told me to stand at ease. The LTCOL and the MSGT 
were already starting to look over the shelves of FMs, going through 
the file cabinets, and they were marking shit down on their clip boards. 

The general asked me if I had brought the Training room up to 
Army regulation standards. I told him that I did. He then turned to 
the MSGT and asked him what he had found. The MSGT told the 
general that everything had been corrected, except for a few missing 
FM's, which I said, they are on order, showing the general the order 
request from ATCC. The general asked the MSGT what the new grade 
was now, and the MSGT said, "Sir, the way I see it, this Training 
room is now at ninety-eight percent'' Being 2l far cry from the twelve 
percent the last IG grade was just a few weeks ago, I felt really 
great and greatly relieved. 

The general complimented me, telling me that I had done an 
outstanding job in a short period of time. Then Captain Gunner and 
IstSGT Reymeres came into the room, came to attention, and sharply 
saluted the general. The general returned their salutes and said to 
them, "As you were." The general told them that his staff had found 
the HHC Training room to be at a ninety-eight percent grade. He 
complimented the CO and Top for a job well done saying, "I surely 
hope the rest of your HHC grade will also reach this high 
level during my inspection today." The CO assured him that 
this would be the case. 

The general then said, "I recommend and expect to see this PFC 
promoted to the rank of specialist fourth class as soon as possible for 



416 Bud Monaco 



the exceptional work he has done, and that a higher ranking soldier 
should be in charge of this Training room until the regulation 
positions can be filled." Top told the general that my promotion 
orders had already been submitted and were presently being 
processed. Once a general gave a suggested order to promote a 
soldier, it would be done quickly, and without hesitation. Turned out 
that was very true, as the next goddamned day I received my orders, 
promoting me to specialist fourth class. The orders were backdated 
to the first of May. Great stuff for sure. 

The general then said to the CO, "Captain, my Staff and I haven't 
eaten a thing since breakfast, and we are damn hungry. How about 
we move over to the mess hall and have some lunch together? Then, 
I'll see if your mess hall is up to Army standards." The CO couldn't 
be more agreeable and assured him it would be up to Army 
standards. The five of them walked out of the Training room and 
headed over to the mess hall. Damn! I had pulled off a major league 
coup. I was looking real good to the CO and Top. And, I was going to 
be promoted to SP4 to boot! That Training room job just kept on 
getting better all the time. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 417 



Chapter 61 

Ghosting Continues: So Does Army Garrison Life 

As the following weeks of June passed, I figured as long as I had 
all the up-to-date FMs available, I would start to read them, and 
see what was supposed to be done as far as battalion infantry training 
was designated by Army regulations. One of the FMs had a detailed 
directory of training operations with required training sessions of 
hundreds of things to do. One of the highlighted training tools to be 
implemented was using the Army training films. There were 
hundreds of Army training films listed in this FM to choose from, 
and they were all available at the ATCC facility. 

I figured out that I could order numerous films on a weekly 
basis, have a driver take me over to the ATCC to pick them up once a 
week, do some ghosting and hang out with the SP4 that I had met. 
I could schedule the film training sessions for the mortar platoon and 
other HHC platoons, having the guys come to the Day room during 
on-duty working hours a couple of times a week. That way, the 
guys would not have to do shit details, as they would be required to 
attend the film sessions. 

Of course, I would be running the film sessions and operating 
the projector with no NCOs around. We could then just fuck off in 
the Day room while the projector was running, smoke cigarettes, 
drink soda, shoot pool, shuck and jive talking shit, fiddle fuck around, 
and not pay one bit of attention to the film for hours on end. 

I went over to see Top in his office and ran it by him about the 
training film plan, showing him the FM that listed the training re- 
quirements. He told me it was a real good idea, and to put it into 
action, without questioning me or being aware of my underlying 
motives. So, I got on the phone with the SP4 at ATCC, ordered some 
films, a projector, and scheduled a driver and a jeep for the next day. 
The next morning, the two of us headed over to Corazal, picked up 
the films, hung out with the SP4 there for a few hours, wasted most 
of the afternoon getting something to eat in Balboa, and stopped at 
the lookout point at the Bridge Of The Americas to watch the 
ships enter and leave the Panama Canal for a few hours more. 
That was sweet. 



418 Bud Monaco 



At first, the guys were bitching and moaning about having to 
attend the training room film sessions. But once I laid it out for them 
how it would play out, they hailed me for doing it and loved the shit 
out of it. I continued having the training film sessions for the next 
eleven months of my service time whenever I could pull it off. 
I saved a lot of soldiers from a lot of shit details, and they were thankful 
that I was able to pull it off on a regular basis. 

There was quite a lot more training stuff to schedule listed in 
the FM directory that I could figure out how to use to our advantage. 
One of the training operations that was supposed to be done on a 
regular basis was re-qualifying weapons at the live fire range. All 
soldiers were required to qualify their weapons when first assigned 
to a new company, but they were also required to re-qualify their 
weapons on a regular basis that could be done any time the training 
officer designed. Seeing that there was no training officer assigned, 
and / was in charge, I implemented weapons qualifications 
whenever / felt like it, and especially on Saturdays, when there was 
going to be inspections. 

If a soldier had to qualify his weapon on a scheduled Saturday, 
then he would not have to stand inspection. No one had a problem 
with that. One of the squad leaders was a real cool guy who had been 
drafted. His only concern was to get short and get out of the Army, 
and he didn't give a rat's ass about being in the Army. I would 
schedule the SGT to be in charge of the weapons qualifications, 
schedule one of my pals from the support platoon and a deuce and a 
half truck to take us to Empire Range for the live fire training. The 
move gave them the opportunity to skate around having to stand 
inspection. I would schedule a dozen soldiers at a time, spreading 
the scheduling around equally. 

I would also put in the request for the ammo needed, and 
schedule with a separate S-4 ammo soldier pal and driver with a 
deuce and a half truck, to bring the boxes of ammo out to the range. 
Whenever a live fire training session was going on, there also had to 
be two HHC medics on duty at the range, just in case someone got 
hurt or worse, got shot. That way, those four guys could also skate 
around not having to stand inspection. None of the soldiers had a 
problem with that either, and Top never batted an eye or questioned 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 419 



what I was doing. He actually was very pleased that I was 
implementing the training regulations, and were being done 
properly, making him, the CO, and HHC look real good in the 
training files of HHC. He just had the CO co-sign the ammo request 
form and sent us on our way to the range. 

Once we arrived at Empire Range, the soldiers would load up 
their magazines with ammo, step up to the firing line under the 
direction and supervision of the SGT, and blow off a couple of 
magazines with their M-16s. I would mark everyone down on their 
weapon's qualification cards, as long as they actually hit the targets 
down range as qualifying expert marksman. No one had any 
problem hitting the targets, as every soldier was already pretty good 
at shooting in the first place. That was also real cool, as now, 
everyone who was marked down as Expert Marksman would be 
awarded an Expert Marksman Badge that they could wear on their 
khaki uniforms or dress green uniforms, and the award was added to 
their personal Army 201 File. Everyone loved the shit out of that. 

I also scheduled everyone to qualify or re-qualify with the 
Army .12 gauge shotgun and the Army Colt .45 caliber automatic 
pistol. That way we all got to shoot off more ammo which everyone 
had a ball doing. Everyone would also get qualified as pistol expert 
marksman, just like with their M-16s, and would get awarded 
a similar marksman badge to wear to be placed into their Army 201 
File. It was totally cool all the way around for every soldier. 

All of those qualifications only took an hour or so, and we would 
quickly clean all the weapons, then fuck off ghosting for the next 
three or four hours, until it was time for lunch mess call back at Fort 
Kobbe, and the inspections were over. We would then have the truck 
drivers take us back to Fort Kobbe, return the weapons to the 
Armorer's vault, clean up, hit the mess hall for lunch, 
and have the rest of the day off Not a bad day. Not bad at all. 

Every day, I learned a new trick or two that made some things 
easier for as many guys as I could get away with, without Top or the 
CO taking notice. It worked out great in many ways, and everyone 
benefitted nicely from the moves I was making. The Training room 
assignment continued to pay off in big dividends day after day. 
And, of course, I took full advantage of everything I could. 



420 Bud Monaco 



Further along during my Training room learning curve, I learned 
about military driver's licenses. On any military base, or anywhere 
in Panama or the Canal Zone, anyone having a proper United States 
driver's license issued in their home state was allowed to drive 
a civilian vehicle. But, for a soldier to drive any military vehicle, it 
was required to have a military driver's license. To get a military 
driver's license, a soldier had to learn the military rules of the road 
from an Army handbook, pass a written driver's test, sit through an 
Army driving film and pass a road test. 

Once a soldier received his military driver's license, he was able 
to drive any of the vehicles in the Motor Pool that were included in 
the road test he passed. Any soldier with a military driver's license 
could then be picked for driving details as needed. By getting 
bro crew guys to take the driving test also allowed me to pick 
my own drivers whenever I chose to travel to ATCC or anywhere else 
I needed to go. That way, the driver and I could do some ghosting as 
we pleased. I spread the assignments around equally so everyone got 
a chance to do some ghosting as my driver whenever available. Some 
of those guys couldn't drive a nail with a hammer, let alone drive 
a military vehicle, but it was always a fun adventure either way. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 421 

Chapter 62 

New Four Deuce Platoon Staff Sergeant 

As the days of June passed, I was still a part of the four deuce 
mortar platoon, and had to spend some time training with the 
platoon. I didn't have to spend a lot of time with the platoon, but 
I had to, once in a while, do maintenance and cleaning of the big 
guns from time to time. I also scheduled a few more live fire training 
missions than had been done previously. We all enjoyed going out to 
Empire Range and firing off the big guns. It was always cool to 
blow shit up down range. No one cared for having to clean the guns 
after a training mission, but we had to clean them weekly anyway, so 
we might as well clean them following a live fire. 

When July rolled around, we learned that SSGT Packardie was 
transferring out of HHC, and going back to Vietnam for his second 
tour. It was sad news for us in the mortar platoon, as he was well 
liked, a pretty good guy, and not a bad lifer to deal with. He had 
always dealt with every soldier with equal respect and treated all the 
soldiers under his command the same way. He always used his 
authority as properly needed by Army regulations, but never unjustly 
fucked over any soldiers under his command, unless they needed to 
be fucked over because of doing stupid shit and acting like jagoffs. 

The biggest thing about him leaving was that whatever SSGT 
took over his platoon sergeant assignment might turn out to be 
a total asshole. Nothing we could do about that, but hope the next 
assigned platoon sergeant would turn out to be a good one like SSGT 
Packardie. Time would tell. 

SSGT Packardie's orders to transfer out of HHC came in the 
first week of July. We all said our goodbyes to him the day he left 
and wished him well. We told him we hoped he made it through his 
second tour in Vietnam, didn't get his ass blown up, and made it back 
home safely. He told us that he enjoyed having all of us under his 
command and that we were all pretty good soldiers, wishing us well 
the same. Then, he climbed into a waiting jeep, the driver took him 
to the airport, and just like that he was gone. That's how it was in the 
Army. Here today, gone baby gone tomorrow. 

None of us ever heard from him again, and even to this day, 



422 Bud Monaco 



I think about him, wondering how his Army career turned out. With 
him being a top flight SSGT knowing how to command soldiers, he 
probably was promoted over the years, and surely would have made 
the rank of first sergeant, or maybe even a sergeant major. He sure 
had the skills and Army knowledge to do so. 

The week after SSGT Packardie was gone a SSGT Hillmon was 
assigned to HHC and became the new 4.2" mortar platoon sergeant, 
as well as the acting SSGT in charge of the Training room. SSGT 
Hillmon had just finished a thirty-day furlough back in the States 
after returning from his first tour in Vietnam. He turned out to be a 
pretty good guy, and we were all pleased that he wasn 7 a lifer asshole. 
He was a career Army lifer for sure, but he was not a big, gung-ho, 
fuck-over-the-lower-ranking soldiers under his command type of guy. 
He had been in combat in Vietnam and had been awarded a Bronze 
Star for Valor, and a Purple Heart, as he had been wounded once in 
combat. He was a top notch Army soldier and knew his way around 
a four deuce mortar platoon very well. 

Once SSGT Hillmon settled into HHC and the mortar platoon, 
things continued to run smoothly. He also became more active in the 
Training room. Together we kept everything running properly and 
up to Army standards. He was a by the book soldier, but like all 
soldiers, no matter what rank, he knew how to make things easier to 
get done. He also knew damn well how to ghost and get over 
whenever possible. It was good all the way around for me and the 
rest of the guys in the platoon. 

During the following weeks, I came up with numerous things to 
do to kill time, avoid working too hard for myself and my pals in 
HHC. One fime, I made arrangements with some kind of bullshit 
that I convinced Top about that would have me with a few guys and 
a truck driver travel to the Atlantic side and stay overnight at Fort 
Davis for some cockamamie excuse. All we did was smoke some 
Johnsons on the drive across the Canal Zone, hang out in the 
barracks ghosting, listen to some music with some soldiers from the 
4th Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment at Fort Davis, and had a few 
meals in their mess hall. I traded off some Army FMs with the HHC 
Training room soldier, which was my pretended reason for going 
there in the first place. It was totally unnecessary to do, but no one 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 423 



knew that except for me. It was simple to pull that off without 
anyone questioning my motives. We had a ball. We did a lot of 
ghosting and fucking off, but when it came time to soldiering, any 
one of us was right-on-ready to soldier up for any task at hand. 

The next day, we loaded back up into the truck and took our 
sweet time driving back to Fort Kobbe, making sure we didn't arrive 
until just before dinner mess call, and the work day on duty was over. 
Whooped 'em again. Just another day in the Army. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 425 

Chapter 63 

The Revolution Of Our Minds Takes Us To Another Level 

''Born To Be Wild. 

A New Way Of Life. 

Got To Get Back To The World. 

While You 're Making Plans. 

Things In Life Happen.'' 

Some time during the weeks of July, one of the guys found out 
there was a new movie playing over at the Fort Amador movie 
theater. It was called 'Easy Rider starring Peter Fonda and Dennis 
Hopper, who most of us had never heard of. A couple of guys had 
heard about the movie from some pals of theirs back home and said 
we absolutely had to go check it out. So, one evening, we piled into 
our pal's Roadmaster and headed over to Fort Amador, which was 
only about a twenty-minute drive from Fort Kobbe. 

We burned a Johnson on the ride over, and were nicely buzzed 
when we entered the theater. It was a pretty nice theater as Fort 
Amador was the Army Headquarters for the USSOCOM, and there 
were some very high ranking officers and sergeants around, so we 
were on our best behavior. Being dressed in civvies, you never knew 
who was who. But you knew any older guys could very well be 
a general, an admiral, or a full bird colonel. We purchased some 
popcorn and sodas, and took our seats in the theater. None of us had 
a clue what the 'Easy Rider' movie was all about and anxiously sat 
through some bullshit Army preview movie before the show started. 

From the vtry first scenes of the movie, we were all totally blown 
away! Throughout the movie, as we watched in awe on the big screen, 
larger than life, with the custom motorcycles, the actors with long 
hair, smoking dope, the women, the story of American freedom out 
on the highways of the USA, the cool dialog, and the unbelievable 
soundtrack blasting out of the sound system. We were completely 
mesmerized, hypnotized, and our minds were taken to a new state of 
overwhelming desires. None of us would ever be the same again. 

We could not believe what we were seeing up on the movie 
screen. It was so fucking cool, and it was a heavy, moving experience 
to the max. Here we are, soldiers serving in the Army overseas, and 



426 Bud Monaco 



we are seeing what is going on back home in the World. We knew 
right then and there watching the film that this was what we were 
going to do from the moment we finished our service time in the 
Army and returned to the World! There was not a single doubt 
or a second thought about it. 

When the film was finished, we walked out of that theater in 
shock and awe. We were pretty much speechless for quite a while as 
we stood around in the parking lot trying to take in everything we 
had seen up on the movie screen. But, once we started talking about 
it, the conversations came to di fevered frenzy between us. We stood 
in that parking lot for an hour or more reviewing every song, and the 
entire dialog we had seen and heard during the 'Easy Rider' movie. 
You would have thought that we had written the script. We could 
remember every line of dialog and every scene just about exactly 
as it played out in the film. 

That movie set in mofion a new way of life and thinking that 
would be a major catalyst in shaping the rest of my life. It was 
a life-altering experience that would never be forgotten. And, righdy so. 

Once we recovered from the shock of the movie, we piled back 
into the Roadmaster and went to the restaurant in Balboa for 
hamburgers, fries, and soda. On the ride to the restaurant, and while 
we were in the joint, we couldn't stop talking about the movie. We 
were talking a mile a minute, with everyone, at fimes, all talking at 
once. It was the same wild conversafion during the ride back to Fort 
Kobbe. When we got back to the barracks, the continuing, excited 
conversations reached even higher peaks, as we related the movie to 
the other soldiers in the barracks. They couldn't believe what we 
were telling them. It went on well into the morning hours before we 
finally wore ourselves out talking about 'Easy Rider,' and went to sleep. 

With the month of July locked in and the days passing, I came 
to realize I had enough time in service, with fourteen months served, 
to apply for my thirty day furlough. So I put in the paper work 
applying for my furlough to be in effect starting on the first week of 
August, 1970. When I brought my paper work to Top for his 
approval, he told me that he saw no problem with me taking my 
furlough, but only if I could find another soldier to take my place in 
the Training room. Until I did that, he would not forward my 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 427 



furlough request to the CO for final approval. 

It turned out during my quest to find a temporary replacement 
that one of the FNGs recently assigned to HHC knew how to type. 
I had him come to the Training room, sat him down at the typewriter 
to see if he could actually type, and it turned out that he could type 
very well. That was all I needed to know. 

I told Top that I had found a temporary replacement, and he 
gave his permission to assign the soldier to the Training room. Top 
forwarded my furlough request to the CO, and the CO signed the 
request without a question. It was so fucking cool that I was going 
home, and I was on cloud nine. I quickly started making 
arrangement for my flight back home to Chicago. It was going to be 
a great thirty days, and I planned on enjoying every minute of it. 

I had the temporary soldier spend time in the Training room 
with me, teaching him how to do the daily morning report, and how 
to set up and type out the weekly training schedules. I also told him 
to absolutely not touch or fuck with any of the FMs, weapon's 
qualifications or training files that I had in perfect order. Anything 
that had to be done with them while I was gone, I would take care of 
when I returned. 

In hindsight, I should have planned my furlough differently. 
I should have stayed in Central America, and went to Costa Rica to 
see the sights. I should have also gone to South America to visit 
Bogota, Columbia; Lima, Peru; La Paz, Bolivia; and Rio De Janeiro, 
Brazil. Those locations were all easily reachable through military 
transport planes that would have cost me nothing, and there were 
military barracks and facilities that I could have stayed in free of 
charge as well. It would have been a great experience to 
visit all those places, as I might never have the opportunity to 
do so again in my life. 

But, I was hell-bent-for-leather to get the fuck out of Panama, 
get back home to Chicago and the World. I was blind to any 
other mind set. So that was what I decided and stuck to my 
one-sided vision to go home for thirty days. 

The following weeks of July flew by quickly. The same 
day-to-day Army roufines continued as they always did. Continuous 
training, lots of ghosting, and a trip or two to Panama City and 



428 Bud Monaco 



K Street. On one excursion to K Street, we came across a hootch 
squatting on his haunches on the curb. He was cooking small pieces 
of meat on a stick, like a shiskabob, over a small tin can with a sterno 
can underneath for heat. One of the guys asked if anyone was 
hungry. Two of us were hungry and paid the hootch a quarter for a 
stick of meat. As we were munching the meat down, one of the guys 
said, "What does that taste like?" I said, "It tastes like chicken." They 
all started laughing and said, ''That's not chicken, you dumb fuck, its 
Iguana meat. It's fucking lizard meat." At first it was a surprise to 
hear, and I was going to spit it out, but it actually didn't taste bad at 
all, so I continued to eat the lizard meat. The other guy wasn't as 
comfortable learning he was eating lizard. After spitting out what he 
had in his mouth, he proceeded to puke his guts up right there in the 
street. It was a given he wouldn't be taking part in any further 
indigenous cuisine any time soon. That was just another 
shtick- thing of Panama City. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 429 



Chapter 64 

Back To The World: For A Little While 

My travel orders and furlough papers were processed and 
I received them during the last week of July. The first week 
and my day to leave in August arrived, and I made arrangements for 
one of the guys to drive me to Tocumen Airport for my flight to 
Miami. Getting on the plane in Panama was a really cool feeling, 
and I was just ecstatic about it. When the plane finally took off, 
I could see the jungle below, and I was so glad that I was not down 
there in that shit. In Miami, I transferred planes for a flight to Chicago. 

I felt a litfle apprehensive getting off the plane in Miami and 
again in Chicago. Top had told me to stay alert for any problems in 
the airport terminals because there were anti-war protesters hanging 
around U. S. airports that were spitting on soldiers, throwing shit at 
them, and giving them a hard time, calling them baby killers and 
murderers. Top told me to avoid any confrontations, ignore 
them the best I could, and just keep walking. Fortunately, I did 
not encounter any of them. 

I had not written or called to tell my Mom and Dad that I was 
coming home because I wanted to surprise them. I called my pal 
Frankie from Miami, and asked him to pick me up at the Chicago 
airport. He showed up right on time as I walked out of the terminal, 
and it was a beautiful thing to see him sitting there in his old, now 
further btai to shit, '57 Ford. What a wonderful sight. I was home again. 

On the ride back home to Paulina Street, I was talking a mile 
a minute, telling Frankie all about the many things that had been 
happening in Panama. As I was talking, I was rubber necking around 
in the car, and taking in what I could see of the sights of Chicago as 
if I had never seen them before. 

Arriving back on the block, I walked up to the front door of my 
house and instead of just walking in, I rang the doorbell. I could hear 
my Ma holler out, "Who's there?" but waited until she came to door 
to see me. She started crying and yelling out in surprise, as she opened 
the door, wrapped her arms around me, grabbed hold of me in a big 
hug, and continued to cry some more. It was so good to be in my 
Mother's arms and back home again. 



430 Bud Monaco 



My two sisters, Marilyn and Anita were home, and they were 
hugging me just like my Ma. We were all talking at once, and they 
were asking me dozens of questions. My Ma was making dinner and 
had her patented Italian red sauce and meatballs simmering on the 
stove. She quickly tossed some spaghetti into boiling water and made 
me up a big plate to eat. It was absolute heaven and it tasted so good. 
I had not had this kind of Italian food for almost twelve months, and 
I wolfed it down like a hungry, wild animal. 

My Dad would not be home from work at Bell Telephone 
Company for another hour or two, so I took a walk outside to check 
out the block. It was the middle of summer, around eighty degrees, 
nothing like the ninety-five degrees plus, sweltering tropical heat in 
Panama, and all the grass, trees, and bushes were a deep green, 
blowing gently in a light Chicago summer breeze. 

I then made a few stops visiting some of my pals from the 
neighborhood, spending time talking with each of them. I had worn 
my khaki Army uniform, keeping it on to show off, with my new 
specialist fourth class stripes sewn on both sleeves, my one Army 
award, the National Defense Service Ribbon, with my expert 
marksman badges pinned on, along with my braided, blue Infantry 
Designation rope around my shoulder and arm. My Army infantry 
brass collar pins, brass buckle, and combat boots were highly 
poUshed, shining brightly. I was looking like a real stract soldier. 

From down the block while talking with my best friend Cash on 
his front porch, I saw my Dad's white, four-door, 1963 Pontiac 
Catalina pull up in front of our house and made my way back to see 
him. He grabbed me in a big hug and had a tear in his eye, but wasn't 
carrying on like my Ma had been doing. Back in the house, I sat 
down in the front room with him, and gave him a military briefing 
about what I had been doing in the Army. We talked for about an 
hour, then my Ma had dinner ready, and we sat down to eat together. 
Eating dinner with the family was a real treat, compared to eating in 
the Army mess hall, eating out in the field, or out of C-Ration cans. 
It was wonderful and I enjoyed every minute of it. 

I didn't think about it much at first, but as I was talking with my 
Dad, I came to the realization that I was absolutely not the same kid 
that had left home just over fourteen months ago. After all the Army 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 431 



training, being in Panama, doing some dope, hooking up with whores, 
having the new age of rock music with its revolutions of social and 
moral changes locked into my brain, it was a brand new world that 
I was newly born into. I was a very changed boy, now a different 
man, and my family really didn't have a clue what I was presently all 
about. Before I went into the Army, I was just another 
same-old-same-old kid from back on the block. I still had a little 
of the kid-on-the-block in me, but I also had a whole different 
outlook and knowledge about life. 

After dinner, I told my Ma and Dad that I was going to take 
a walk over to my old hangout at Murray Park to see the guys. Very 
surprisingly, my Dad said, as if it was something common for him to 
say, but absolutely not the case, that I could take his Pontiac and 
drive there. That was a real shock, as my Dad never let me drive his 
car. His car was his precious baby, and he protected it like you couldn't 
believe. No one ever drove his car, so that was quite a treat. 

I pulled up in front of the park hot house, and all the guys were 
already there hanging out. It was so cool to see all my old friends 
again, and we had a real nice time juking, jiving, smoking 
cigarettes, and shooting the shit. 

Some of the guys were not around, as Ziggy Laporta was still in 
the Army serving in Korea, Johnny Petramala was serving in 
Germany, Larry DeGeorge, who was in the Air Force, and Johnny 
Cain had served in Alaska, and both of them were now stationed in 
Germany. Pat Carolan happened to be home on a three-day pass from 
Fort Leonard Wood, MO, where he still had a few months left 
to serve in the Army after his combat tour in Vietnam. 

Joe Anderson was back home in the neighborhood hanging out, 
and was dodging the Army MPs who were looking for him. He had 
gone AWOL from the Fort Sheridan Army hospital up on Chicago's 
north shore. He was still undergoing rehabilitation and continuing 
medical operations for the terrible damage done to his face, jaw, and 
neck from getting wounded in Vietnam. He would say, ''Fuck the 
Army! What are they gonna do to me? Put me back in the Army, and 
send me to Vietnam? Fuck theml I'll go back to the hospital when 
I feel like it." Frankie was also still dodging the Marine MPs, as he 
had been doing for a few years since he went over the hill before 



432 Bud Monaco 



I was drafted. It was a trip that the Marines could never catch 
up with him after all that time. 

Fast cars with souped-up engines, custom paint jobs, and chrome 
reverse wheels were a real big deal to own and drive for all of the 
guys in the neighborhood. Some of the guys owned beautiful muscle 
cars that they drove around the neighborhood, burning rubber, 
tearing up the city streets, and some of them racing in competition at 
the drag strip. The cops were always on the lookout to 
catch and bust guys for burning rubber or speeding. It was always 
a challenge to get away with reckless driving and was 
a badge of honor to continue to do so. 

Pat 'Woody' Woods had his '62, midnight black, 327 Chevy 
Impala. Denny 'Swede' Olson had his teal green, '65 Olds Cutlass 
442 that was jacked up high with custom suspension, a 400 

cubic inch four-barrel 
carburetor with a four 
on the floor Hurst 
shifter, sporting chrome 
reverse wheels and duel 
competition Headman 
headers that would just 
roar when he opened up 
the cut off valves. Johnny 'Pet' Petramala had a custom painted, 
candy-apple red metal flake, 409, '63 Chevy Impala. Marty Furlong 
had his dead nuts on perfectly restored, burgundy, '57 Chevy Bel Air 
with a monster built, powerhouse 427 big block Chevy engine with a 
Edelbrock high-rise aluminum manifold and custom heads topped 
off with a Carter AFB dual quad carburetor set up that could top a 
hundred and fifty MPH in ten seconds from a standing start. He raced 
at the drag strip on weekends with Bob Barcy who had a blue and 
white, '69 Chevy Camaro that also had a monster 427 big block 
engine that was just beautiful. Denny Morrissey had a '69 Dodge 
Coronet with a big block 440 Magnum engine topped off 
with a four-barrel carburetor set up. 

My old hockey pal Harry Sycora had a jet black '69 Dodge 
Charger with the newly redesigned big block 426 Hemi engine with 
dual quad carburetors pumping premium high grade gasoline into 




DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 433 



the cyhnder ports that made the basically stock set up jump off the 
line absolutely roaring from a standing start like a shot out of a 
cannon. There were two other guys that weren't in our Park Boys 
crew that used to come around with their cars. One of them had a '69 
Plymouth Coronet with a Mopar 413 engine with Ram Induction. 
The other guy had a '68 Shelby Ford Mustang Cobra with a 428 
power house Cobra Jet engine topped off with an aluminum 
high-rise manifold sporting a single four-barrel Holly carburetor. 
I myself, previously, had a gold colored '67 Pontiac Tempest 
with an overhead cam six that was a real beauty, which was 
sold before I got drafted. 

Out there on the streets and neighborhoods of Chicago, it was 
like, ahead of its time, the 'American Graffiti' movie. Actually, it 
was what the writers and directors of 'American Graffiti' used for 
guidelines to write the script. Actually, 'American Graffiti,' was 
scripted from the Southern California street scenes of the late 50's 
and early 60's. The car thing was the same in all neighborhoods and 
cities across the USA. Fast cars, fast women, fast living. There 
was nothing like it, and we lived for it. 

It has always been said that the 60's were the revolution years 
that were born from the 50's, which developed from the war years of 
the 40's, out of the generations following the 30's, and the 20's. 
In reality, the 70's were the years of the actual applications and 
expansion of the revolution, as when the 60's are talked about as 
being the heydays of the revolution, it was only the last three years of 
the '60's that got it all started, but that wasyw^r the beginning. The 
70's rocked the nation and society to its foundations. The 
soldiers of the Vietnam era, and our generation, would be 
a big part of that in our own right. 

Later, around midnight, I was feeling burnt out from travelling, 
hanging out, and all the excitement of being home again, and headed 
home for a good night's sleep in my own bed. It was great putting my 
head down on my own old, favorite pillow. I fell fast asleep and slept 
soundly until late the next morning, waking up on my own accord, 
without having the CQ or platoon sergeant screaming out in 
the barracks before first light, "First call! On your feet and 
stop beating your meat!" 



434 Bud Monaco 



I slept in until around noon, and my Ma whipped up a breakfast 
of eggs, sunny-side up just how I liked them, with some fried bacon 
and toast. That was real nice. I then put my khaki uniform back on 
and headed over to see my girl who lived a few blocks away. When 
she opened the door and saw me standing there, she started crying 
and hugging me just like my Ma did. She was real glad to see me. 
We hung out at her place and made out on the couch for a 
while. Then we took a ride in her car to go visit her Ma at her Ma's 
beauty parlor. Again, here came the crying and hugging once 
more, but it was all good. 

That night, my girl and I checked into a motel, quickly got 
naked and threw down together. It was repeated a couple of more 
times during the night, wonderfully enjoyed by both of us. Not too 
late the following morning, we checked out of the motel, she dropped 
me off at my house and called in to work to tell them she was not 
coming in that day. I changed out of my Army khaki's, she returned 
to pick me up, and we spent the rest of the day just driving around 
the neighborhood, talking and just enjoying each other's company. 
We ate dinner with my family that evening, and then she went home 
because she had to get up early and go to work the next day. 
We would repeat hanging out together numerous times during 
my thirty day furlough. 

The rest of the days of furlough were spent hanging around with 
the guys at the park, going to see some movies at the theater and the 
drive-in, and just generally fucking off doing nothing most of the 
time. I got together with my friend Tony Cash, and he brought his 
drums over to my Ma and Dad's basement, and with both of our 
drum sets in place, we banged away on the drums for hours 
on end. Cash had been my main drum teacher over the years, and 
we had a ball playing together. 

I also loaded my drums up into Cash's Chevy Biscayne a couple 
of times, went over to my friend's house on 71st Street, just east of 
Ashland, and jammed with my old rock and roll band mates. Frankie 
Zieger played guitar, Tony Izzo played Bass, and I played drums, 
with all of us singing. Our band was called ''The Fascinations'' Our 
moniker was, ''The Go Go Sounds Of The FascinationsT We weren't 
too bad. We weren't too good either, but we coulda been contenders. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 435 




Ha. Yeah, right. I had a ball being able to jam with the band again. 

My Dad and I went to a Chicago White Sox game at Comisky 
Park to see the White Sox play the New York Yankees. That was 
really cool spending some quality time with my Dad. Cash and I also 
went out one Sunday to U. S. 30 Drag Strip in Indiana to watch the 
drag races and had a great time seeing the Top Fuel Dragsters, the 

competition B Gassers, and all 
the beautiful Street Machine 
Class racers burn up that 
quarter mile at Drag City. 

During the race, we saw 
Big John Mazmanian and Stone, 
Woods and Doug 'Cookie' Cook 
square off for the first place 
trophy in the B Gasser field. The 'Golden Greek' Chris Karamesines, 
with his famed 'Chizler' Top Fuel Dragster, along with 'Big Daddy' 
Don Garlits, with his famed 'Swamp Rat' Top Fuel Dragster, squared 
off in the Top Fuel finals. They put on one hell of a show, lighting up 
their giant drag slicks, burning rubber in a cloud of smoke, as they 
both hit perfect lights when the Christmas tree turned green. Their 
nitro-methane fueled dragsters, putting out over 5,000 horsepower, 
absolutely screamed down the 
quarter mile with a giant roar. 
They both blasted through the 
finish line timing traps at over 
210 MPH ! Amie 'The Farmer' 
Beswick,with his race-fan- 
favorite 'GTO Tiger,' and 
Ronnie Sox and Buddy 
Martin, with their 'Sox and Martin Super Stock Hemi Roadrunner,' 
were also on hand. It was a great day of racing. 

I also spent some fime at the old grammar school playgrounds 
of Raster public school on 69th and Hermitage, and St. Justin 
catholic school on 7 1st and Honore, to play some fast pitching against 
the walls, which had pitching boxes painted in white on the bricks of 
the school and priests' rectory garage walls. As kids, we had spent 
hours and days on end doing this until it was too dark outside to see 




436 Bud Monaco 




the ball. A couple of other times, the crew of guys played touch 
football in the field at Murray Park, beating the shit out of each other. 
It was called touch football, but there was very little touching done, 
as just about every play there was full contact, and I got my 
skinny, five foot seven, hundred and nineteen pound ass beat 
down into the dirt plenty of times. 

I made sure to call my old high school and hockey pal, Wayne 
Stawczyk, to say hello. He told me that he and some of the guys from 
our old juvenile hockey team were going to play a pick-up game at 
the indoor Rainbow 
Ice Arena, where we 
played as kids, up on 
the north side of 
Chicago at Lawrence 
and Clark Streets. 
That was nice news 
to hear. A day or so 
later, I dug out my old hockey equipment, skates and sticks 
from the shed in the basement. 

Wayne picked me up the night of the game, and the ice time 
was scheduled for 1 1 :00 p.m. Arriving at the rink brought back many 
fond memories, as we played many Juvenile Hockey games in this 
rink during our high school years. It was a great time. I was pretty 
rusty on my skates, but I still had a ball. I hadn't seen any snow or ice 
since the winter of '68-'69, and yet here we were in the middle of 
August, skating our asses off on an indoor ice surface. I really 
enjoyed the time out on the ice playing hockey again. 

I spent time visiting all my old haunts hke the old Clark gas 
station on 69th and Damen, and Bob Barcy's gas station on 71st and 
Damen, where we hung out a lot, as Bob spent more time working 
on his Camaro than pumping gas. I made a few trips to the Italian 
neighborhood restaurant Cal Mar's, where I worked as a bus boy for 
a few years, to order their famously renowned, brown paper bag of 
golden Italian fries that only cost twenty-five cents for a huge bag of 
fries, and their renowned Italian beef sandwiches on freshly baked 
Italian bread. There was nothing like this in Panama, and it was a 
beautiful thing. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 437 



One evening, Cash and I went to the old Hohday Ballroom on 
77th and Kedzie to enjoy the live music that they played there every 
Saturday night. The joint was always crowded, and that was where 
I first met my girl. She met us there with a couple of her girlfriends, 
and we danced our asses off all night long. 

My Basic Training and AIT Army pal Sebo came by to visit one 
day, after I had tracked him down on the phone. I hadn't seen or 
heard from him since we finished with AIT at Fort Polk. Turns out, 
he went over the hill and never returned to the Army once he 
returned home on leave after AIT. The Army MPs were looking for 
him, but they still had not caught up with him after almost a year's 
time. It was nice to see him again, and I told him about all \htfun he 
was missing in the Army. He still wanted no part of the Army and 
would continue to stay on the run AWOL until they eventually caught 
up with him. Sooner or later, the MPs would catch up with him. 

The MPs always 
caught up with 
AWOL soldiers, 
no matter how 
many years a 
soldier was on the 
run. The military 
was relentless in 
pursuing AWOL or deserter soldiers for years upon years, and they 
usually got their man one way or another unless a guy headed over 
the border to Canada. Canada had no extradition treaty with the USA 
as far as military deserters were concerned, but life on the run in 
Canada was no way to live. I tried to look him up when I got 
discharged from the Army, but I never heard from him again, and 
always wondered whatever happened to him. 

My Dad and Mom made sure I went to visit all of my aunts and 
uncles. That was old school Italian tradition for our family's soldiers 
returning from overseas duty, and had to be done accordingly. I wore 
my Army khaki uniform. They all told me how handsome I looked 
and were proud of me for serving our country. Of course, I had to eat 
mounds of Italian food at all of their homes without hesitation. 
Not to do so would be blasphemy, and I could wind up with the 



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438 Bud Monaco 



'Hands of Italia ' putting the 'Begournia Curse ' of the devil upon me. 
Couldn't let that happen. 

The way I was cramming in all these things to do during my 
furlough, you would have thought I had been put away in a 
concentration camp for ten years, instead of being away from home 
for only fourteen months. I was having a ball and could hardly bear 
the thought of having to return to Panama. 

What seemed like only a few days, the weeks of my furlough 
passed much too fast. It was soon time for me to pack up my stuff, go 
to the airport, and head back to Panama and Fort Kobbe for the final 
nine months of my Army service. That brought me back down to 
earth, and I didn't like it one bit. But there was no second choice. So, 
off I went, saying my good-byes, and leaving Chicago behind me 
again. I was already looking forward to my return even before 
I boarded my plane. I was sad. Real sad. 

During my flight from Chicago to Miami to Panama and the 
truck ride I hitched back from Tocumen Airport to Fort Kobbe with 
some Air Force airmen stationed at Howard Air Force Base, my mind 
was in a real funk. I felt like my mind was in cold storage. I was 
headed back to the same old Army grind, taking it up the khyber by 
Army lifers, endless Army training details, barracks life, hoedowns, 
hoodangs, short-sheeting's, toe jam, juke joint jezebel whores, and 
everything else that Panama, Fort Kobbe, and military life had to 
offer. The future did not look as bright as it hsid just thirty days ago. 
All I could do was suck it up, soldier on for the next nine months, 
and do what I had to do to get through it all. It all sucked. All I could 
do was embrace the suck. Fuck me. And, fuck the Army more so. 

After signing in late that evening upon my arrival at Fort Kobbe, 
first thing the next morning, I was right back up before dawn, with 
the platoon sergeant screaming out in the barracks before first light, 
"First call! On your feet and stop beating your meat. Get your sorry 
asses off your backs out of those racks. Get into rotation and fall out 
in formation." And then I was back behind my desk just like I had 
never been gone. It was not going to be a pleasant first day back for 
me, but I got my required duties done properly, and made it through 
the day. Back in the barracks that night, I started to get my Army 
groove back, and wasn't feeling as bad for myself Hanging with the 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 439 



bro crew, listening to some music, and burning a Johnson or two, 
brought me back to the reality of my Army life. I made up my mind 
not to let it weigh too heavily on my brain, and moved past 
the depressive state I was in. As always in the Army, there 
were no better choices. 

I was telling the guys back in the barracks about my leave time 
in Chicago but they kind of didn 7 really want to hear about all the 
good times / had, which would make them want to be back at home 
and make them depressed. So I put the thoughts of my good times 
back on the block in Chicago locked into the inner sanctums of my 
mind and didn't mention it further. But I sure thought about it a lot, 
almost making myself crazy. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 441 

Chapter 65 

Back To Hell 

Settled back into my Army routine in September, I learned that 
I would be able to move out of the mortar platoon barracks in 
the HHC building and was allowed to bunk across the street in one of 
the other HHC buildings. The building was north of the Battalion 
HQ's building and south of one B Company's buildings. The 
building was the barracks for all the Battalion cooks, company clerks, 
Mail room clerks, and other soldiers who had specialty duties, whose 
duty times and working hours were different than the rest of 
HHC and the three line companies. 

I asked Top if I could make the move and he gave me 
permission. The building was smaller and had barracks bays smaller 
than the other bays. There were only a dozen soldiers bunking down 
in each of the four bays. I had a couple of the guys help me move my 
gear across the street, and settled into my new digs. It was so much 
cooler to be in a bay with only a dozen soldiers than in the bay I had 
been in that had at least five dozen soldiers bunking down. 

Before I made the move across the street to my new barracks, 
a pretty freaky situation happened in our HHC barracks bay. One 
night, the bro crew had been hanging out in the usual corner area of 
the bay. We had one of the big window screens removed, as we 
usually did just in case a lifer or the OD happened to cruise through, 
and we could pitch any contraband out the open window. When 
the gang wound down that night, everyone found their way to their 
racks and went to sleep. 

When the CQ came into the bay, before first light, announcing 
first call in the morning and turned on the lights, it was a real 
awaking, not a dream, and a total fucking nightmare. At first, when 
I woke up, I felt something on my face and brushed it away. Then, 
looking down on my bed sheet, I couldn't believe what I saw. My 
bed sheet was just about completely covered with hundreds of 
finger-nail sized brown beetles! I could barely see any white of the 
sheet. The bugs were also on my face and head. Holy fucking shit! 
I yanked the sheet off of my body, jumped out of my rack onto the 
floor in my bare feet, and there were thousands of these bugs 



442 Bud Monaco 



covering the floor. I could feel them crunching under my bare feet, 
and started hopping around like I had a hot-foot. The rest of the guys 
were also jumping out of their racks, and hopping around like mad 
men. The whole bay floor, everyone, and everyone's sheets were 
totally covered with the bugs. Everyone started yelling and 
screaming, "Get these fucking bugs off of me! Where the fuck did 
these bugs come from? Fuck, fuck, fuck!" 

What a fucking trip, the bugs were everywhere. They were on 
us, on our racks, on our lockers, in our boots and shoes, on the floor, 
they were just everywhere. The bay was completely infested with 
thousands of bugs. We had forgot to put the screen back in the 
window frame, and during the night, the swarm of beetles had passed 
through the company area, and when they were crashing into the 
sides and roofs of the buildings, thousands of them came flying in 
through the open window. The battalion area was surrounded on two 
sides by the jungle, and when bugs like that swarmed, they just crashed 
into whatever was in their way. With the window open, the bugs just 
flew into the bay unabated. It was like one of the signs of the Four 
Horsemen of the Apocalypse, that one being Pestilence, whacking 
us to the max, right in our faces and all over the fucking place! 

The bugs were mostly dormant and not really moving around 
much. So all we could do was brush them off our bodies, shake out 
our fatigues, empty out our boots, shake them off our bunks, and 
start sweeping them into a big pile. Some of the bugs started flying 
around, and we were trying to knock them out of the air with the 
brooms. It was a hysterical and funny sight. More hysterical than 
funny. Once we got ninety-five percent of the bug swept into a giant 
pile at least a foot high, we shoveled them up into the garbage can, 
carried the can outside, and threw them into the dumpster. And 
outside, there were thousands more of the bugs all laying dead and 
dying around the building. These bugs had crashed into the side of 
the building during their swarm, and wound up killing themselves. 
After that living nightmare, we never forgot to put the screen back 
into the window frame. I was never fond of bugs in the first place. 
But, after the bugs in the jungle, and that big pestilence of bugs, 
bugs have forever bugged the fuck out of me. 

Back in the new barracks bay, most of the soldiers in these bays 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 443 



were Army cooks. Each company of HHC, A, B, and C Companies, 
had their own mess halls with their own cooks assigned. The cooks 
were on different time schedules than the rest of the battalion, as 
they worked in shifts to prepare food from two or three o'clock in the 
morning through breakfast, lunch, and dinner mess calls. They slept 
at different times of the day or night, and did not have to go 
through the regular first calls, reveille, or PT that the rest of the 
battalion was required to do. 

The soldiers assigned to these barracks still had to clean the 
barracks and latrines on a daily basis, but it was nice and cozy to not 
have to deal with the normal routines of the Battalion. The CQs of 
each of the companies would have a schedule of who needed to be 
woken up, and would send a CQ runner over to the barracks to wake 
up those soldiers at the prescribed times. It was an enjoyable 
change, and was nicely comfortable. 

One afternoon, as I was doing some ghosting, I was getting some 
extra sleep in my bunk. It was always pretty quiet in that building, as 
there were cooks getting their scheduled sleep time in. All of a 
sudden, I was woken up by the deafening, screaming roar of a jet 
engine that rocked me right off of my bunk. It sounded like a jet 
airplane had flown right through the building. 

On my feet in a flash, as at first I thought that the Ruskies got 
pissed off for not being able to use the Panama Canal, and were 
attacking Fort Kobbe. I ran over to the window, where a soldier 
I didn't know was standing looking out, and a few seconds later, 
another jet came blazing right through, literally, between the 
battalion buildings not fifty feet off the deck of the battalion street. 
The roar of the jet engine was ear-shattering, and with the low-level 
pass, the jet left a cloud of dust and dirt that it kicked up and left 
behind in its wake. We could actually feel the draft of dispersing, 
displaced air whipping through the windows over our bodies where 
we were standing. Holy fucking shit! It was an amazing 
sight, and absolutely mind-blowing. 

As the second jet blasted by in a split second or two's time, we 
could clearly see the pilot in the cockpit, which was just about eye 
level, not being barely forty feet or so away, from our position on the 
top floor of the building. We could clearly see that this was 



444 Bud Monaco 



a McDonnell Douglas F-4J Phantom U. S. Navy Blue Angel's fighter 
jet with its distinctive blue and gold color scheme. Wow, was that a 
trip! It was incredibly exciting to see those Phantom jets so goddamned 
up-close and personal in full flight. 

By now, we could see from the window, that every soldier in the 
Battalion, EM, SGTs, and officers included, had run out of the 
buildings, and were out in the street looking up, wondering what the 
fuck was going on. Then, one of the Phantoms made a third, 
low-level pass, down-on-the-deck, again roaring right through the 
battalion street. Some soldiers were actually ducking down with the 
Phantom being so close overhead. Then a big cheer came 
to a crescendo as all the soldiers started hooping and 
hollering in appreciation for the air show the Navy Blue 
Angel's pilots were putting on. 

We later found out that the Blue Angels had arrived in Panama 
and would be putting on a military air show at Howard Air Force 
Base over the weekend. The Blue Angels were on an international 
air show tour of Central and South America, which they called 
a humanitarian and good will mission. But actually, it was to show 
off America's air superiority and military power to any country or 
enemy insurgents that might be thinking about trying to tangle 
with the USA. The Navy Blue Angels sure made a serious 
statement in no short order. 

The air show took place during the following Saturday 
afternoon, with the full squadron of ten Blue Angels ripping, 
romping, and blasting through the skies over Howard Air Force Base 
and Fort Kobbe. During the air show, which included numerous Army, 
Navy, and Air Force aircraft, there were thousands of military 
personnel, along with military dependents from all the bases in 
Panama, as well as many American and Panamanian civilians in 
attendance, lined up all around the Howard Air Force Base runway. 
It was a great event. Everyone had a wonderful and memorable time 
that day that they would never forget. 

The new guy I hadn't met yet turned to me and said, "Holy 
crap!" Yeah, he actually said 'crap.' Not shit. Not fuck. Just 'crap.' 
Turned out, he was just a polite guy, and that's how he usually talked. 
But, after a month at Fort Kobbe, that changed without much 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 445 



hesitation. "Does this happen around here oftenT I looked at him 
and said, "No way, man. This is the first time I've seen anything Hke 
that around here." We both still had looks of shock on our faces and 
started laughing our asses off. I then said, "By the way, who the hell 
are you? You haven't signed into the Training room yet. Did you just 
arrive here at Fort Kobbe or what?" He put out his hand, and as we 
shook hands he said, "I'm David Gruenewald from St. Louis. I'm 
a cook. I just arrived here about an hour ago." 

I then introduced myself and said, 
"Well, David from St. Louis, welcome to 
Fort Kobbe." I then said to him, "Well, 
you're gonna get this question asked 
sooner or later, so I may as well ask you 
now. Are you a doper or a juicer?" He 
coyly smiled back at me, most likely 
knowing a juicer wouldn't be asking this 
question, pulled a small pack of custom 
made, yellow. Banana brand rolling 
papers out of his pants pocket and said, 
"You got anything to roll up in one of 
these babies?" I started to laugh my ass 
off and said, "Oh yeah, man. That's what I'm talking about." It was 
the beginning of di long, enduring, and beautiful friendship that would 
last over the next forty years, continuing right up to the present day. 
David and I became the best of friends and brothers, spending 
most of our off-duty time together in Panama for the next nine months, 
and visited each other in Chicago, St. Louis, and Florida many times 
over the years following our discharges from the Army. It was 
a lifelong friendship that we both shared, and still enjoy to this 
day after all these years. 

Turns out, David was assigned to be a cook in HHC, and I took 
him over to the Training room, signed him in, set up his weapon's 
qualification and PT files, and then showed him where the CO's 
office was so he could sign in there and report in to the 1 stSGT and 
CO. I took him down to the Supply room where he got his Army 
blanket, sheets, pillow, and combat gear from the supply sergeant. 
Then I took him to the Armorer's vault and had the Armorer assign 




446 Bud Monaco 



him his M-16 rifle. We returned to the barracks and found him an 
empty bunk and lockers to get him squared away properly. With David 
being assigned as a cook in the HHC mess hall, not only would I see 
him during our off-duty hours, but I would see him two or three 
times a day in the mess hall. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 447 



Chapter 66 

Goddamned The Pusher Man 

''Some Men See Things One Way. 

Some Men See Things Another Way. 

Some Men Shoot Other Men. 

When They Don 7 See Things The Same Way." 

The days of September rolled along, with lots of training, film 
sessions, the never- ending scut details, petty-ass Army bullshit, 
weekends spent at Kobbe Beach, a few excursions to K Street in 
downtown Panama City, and as much ghosting as any of us could get 
away with. In regards to all the ghosting everyone got away with, it 
was pretty funny that, as smart as all the lifers thought they were, and 
thought they knew everything that was going on, they didn 't know 
shit. Every soldier knew how to get over on them, and continued to 
be able to ghost, time after time, and the lifers still never figured it 
out. So much for the lifers controlling us. It was like the old saying, 
'The inmates are running the asylum.' Ha, fuck the lifers, 
and fuck the Army! 

During one Saturday night at Fort Kobbe, all of us in the 
bro crew were going to just hang out in the barracks and listen to 
music. Then, one of the guys had received a letter from his friend 
back in the States, and taped to the letter inside the envelope, there 
were two dozen, little orange tablets of Orange Sunshine LSD. 
Oh baby, here we go again. Not everyone was keen on dropping 
acid in the barracks, but a half-dozen or so of us figured, what the 
hell, and dropped the acid. 

For the first hour or so, as with the acid we dropped on Rio Hato 
beach, nothing seemed to be happening. We burned a few Johnsons, 
with the music blasting out of the cassette player, and soon after, the 
acid started kicking in. We were off and running and tripping away 
real nice, having a great time. Then, the shit hit the proverbial fan. 

There was an old hootch guy that used to sneak onto the base 
every now and then at night, and he was known to sell small amounts 
of grass in nickel and dime bags. Well, there was a gung-ho, hard 
core, airborne lifer captain who was the CO of A Company, and he 
was the officer of the day for the Battalion on duty that night. 



448 Bud Monaco 



We later learned that he had caught one of his A Company soldiers 
with a small amount of reefer, and the soldier was facing an Article 
15, and would be busted down to private. The CO gave the soldier 
the option to tell him where he got the grass, and the CO would drop 
the charges. So, the soldier gave up the hootch, questionably, maybe 
rightfully so, to save his own ass, and the CO as the OD, with the 
sergeant of the guard, set up a trap to catch and arrest the hootch. 

We were all up on the third floor in the barracks bay a few hours 
into our tripping and we thought we heard some commotion going 
on down below, outside on ground level behind the building, but with 
the music blasting we couldn't really hear much further 
than where we were. Not thinking or giving it much concern, we 
continued with our partying. 

Then, the HHC CQ runner, who was one of our bro crew guys, 
comes running real fast into the barracks bay screaming out to us 
loudly, 'They shot the pusher man! They shot the pusher man! 
Clean up your shit right now immediately, and be prepared for the 
OD to come through the barracks." 

So here we are tripping our brains out, and now we are hearing 
this! What a bummer! We all started flipping out and started 
scrambling around crazier than a bunch of monkeys in a meth lab. 
We quickly stashed any reefer, cleaning up our area of any traces 
of dope real fast, and turned the music off. We all went over to 
the windows, looking around down below to see if we could 
see what was going on. 

Right down below us, on a small concrete walk that ran around 
the building, we could see the old pusher man spread out on the 
concrete lying dead, with his blood spilling out of his head onto the 
concrete in a big pool of red blood. Holy fucking shit! They really 
did shoot the pusher man! We were all stunned seeing him lying 
there dead on the pavement. The OD and sergeant of the guard 
carried .45 caliber pistols with live ammo when performing their 
OD, SOG and guard duty details. They had drawn down, pumping 
numerous rounds into this lowly, poor-ass hootch, and had 
blown him away. It was really shocking. For sure, a lot more 
shocking to him when the bullets tore into his body. 

Soon after, an Army medic ambulance showed up, along with 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 449 



some other officers and sergeants. They loaded the hootch into the 
ambulance and hauled his dead ass away. Talk about a bad trip. That 
took the cake. The OD never did come into the barracks, and that 
was the end of that. So we got our grooves back a short time later, 
turned up the music, and rocked on like nothing had ever happened. 
It turned out to be quite a night for all of us. Not so good for the 
hootch pusher, that was for sure. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 451 



Chapter 67 

One Year Down And Eight Months To Go: I'm Getting Short 

''Even If You Are Wrong. 

You Must Keep Moving Forward. 

This Is One Of The Many Tricks Of Leadership. 

Good Sergeants Know How To Make Things Work.'' 

With the arrival of October, 1970, 1 had now been stationed at 
Fort Kobbe for a full year. That was a big milestone for me. 
I continued to get short, counting down the months and days until 
my service time was up, and I would be discharged from the Army. 

IstSGT Reymeres and Captain Gunner thought I should be 
promoted to the rank of Buck Sergeant E-5, seeing that I was now 
permanently assigned to the Training room. They wanted an NCO 
taking care of business in there for them, and I had no problem with 
that. I didn't know it at the time, but I had become eligible for 
promotion to SGT E-5 as I had reached the Army's fourteen month 
minimum time in service and rank allowing me to be promoted. Not 
many SP4s were promoted to SGT with that minimum time of 
service, but if I passed the SGT's test, and passed my presentation 
before the SGT's promotion board, I would make the grade. 

That was great news. I had learned many months earlier that the 
lower ranking EM shoveled shit, and the SGTs handed out the 
shovels. I wanted to be one of the SGTs handing out the shovels, and 
now I had my shot. I studied the SGT's promotion manual, 
memorizing it to the letter, and passed the written test 
with flying colors. Now, came the tough part. I would have to go 
before the SGT's promotion board and prove I was worthy of 
being a SGT in their Army. 

The SGT's board was made up of the brigade sergeant major, 
the battalion sergeant major, and all four of the 3rd and the 5th 
Battalion Companies' first sergeants. Those hard core lifers took that 
shit real seriously and would grill a candidate into the ground. They 
did not want any soldier to become an NCO unless he was absolutely 
worthy and Army qualified, as they deemed necessary by their high 
standards, to join their selected ranks as an NCO. 

The day of my board presentation, early that morning, I had my 



452 Bud Monaco 



uniform perfectly starched and pressed with razor sharp creases. 
I had our hootch shoe shine boy put a brilliant, see-your-face-re- 
flected-in, spit-shine on my combat boots, with my brass shinning 
hke a burning bright sun. 

Once I entered the room at Brigade HQs, six, totally stract Army 
lifers were sitting behind a table, looking like ^formidable force of 
nature, and I was shaking in my boots being in the same room with 
the six of them. I walked into the room right up to the front of the 
table, came to ridged attention, saluted them with the best, sharpest 
and crisp salute I had ever done, and said in a loud voice, "Sergeant 
majors. First sergeants. Specialist Fourth Class Monaco, reporting 
as ordered!" The Brigade SGTMAJ returned the salute and told me 
to, "Stand at ease, soldier, and take a seat." I took my seat in the only 
chair in the room placed just six feet in front of their table. I was 
right up closQ, face-to-face with them, and being in close proximity 
to six gung-ho lifers was pretty scary, but I kept my focus and 
prepared my mind for what they were going to test me about in order 
to be promoted to SGT. I didn't want to screw it up and I was ready 
for whatever they had in store for me. 

Then, the testing and questions began. The six of them were 
ripping off questions in machine gun rapid fire, one right after the 
other, about Army regulations, weapons knowledge, being in 
command of lower ranking soldiers, being a leader of men that 
demanded respect and received respect in return. I had done my 
homework, and I had my shit together. I was able to answer every 
question asked knowledgeably and correctly, with nothing but what 
was expected, by their high standards, in United States Army precision. 

After about forty-five minutes of the six senior NCOs grilling 
me and raking me over the coals, the SGTMAJ called me 
to attention, told me that they were finished testing me, and that 
I would be hearing from the promotion board soon, if I had passed 
the SGT's test. "That is all, soldier," he said. I saluted them, did 
a sharp about face, and smartly marched out of the room. 

When I walked out of the Brigade HQ's building, I hadn't 
noticed before as I was so focused during the testing, but I was 
sweating like a hog and fairly soaked in sweat right through my 
uniform to my underwear. Holy shit. What a trip I had just gone 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 453 



through, but I felt real good about it all, and thought I had presented 
myself perfectly to the SGT's board. 

Later that afternoon, IstSGT Reymeres came into the Training 
room, told me I had done an outstanding job in front of the SGT's 
board, and that he was real proud of me. He didn't say a word about 
whether or not I had passed, so I was still very anxious to know the 
outcome. It would not take long to fmd out. One afternoon, two days 
later, I was called into the CO's office where Top and the CO were 
standing. I came to attention and said, "Specialist Fourth Class 
Monaco, reporting as ordered, sir!" 

Captain Gunner then said to me, "Soldier, you are incorrectly 
reporting yourself." I looked at him and Top questionably, not 
knowing what he meant. Then the CO said, "From this point on you 
will report when ordered to do so as Sergeant Monaco.'' He then 
reached over his desk, extending his arm to shake my hand, handing 
me my new promotion orders with the other hand and said, 
"Congratulations, young Sergeant. I am very proud of you." Then 
Top stepped up in front of me, removed my SP4 pins from my collar 
tabs and pins on a set of Sergeant Stripes pins onto my collar. Top 
then shook my hand and said, "Congratulations, Sergeant Monaco. 
I am very proud of you also. I expect you to wear these Sergeant 
Stripes with honor and dignity during the rest of your Army time in 
service. Do not ever disappoint me, and always continue to carry on 
in the high traditions of the United States Army." 

Wow! I made it. I was now a SGT E-5 and couldn't be happier. 
I thanked the CO and Top for their support and confidence they had 
in me, sharply saluted them, did an about face and walked out of the 
CO's office. The two company clerks stood up from their desks, shook 
my hand and congratulated me on my promotion. It was a major 
turning point of my time in service, and I was absolutely elated, 
grinning from ear to ear. 

I went down to the Mortar Platoon bay to tell the guys about my 
promotion, and show off my new Sergeant Stripes. Most of them 
congratulated me, but a few of them weren't real impressed, and said 
some bullshit about me now becoming a lifer, and that I would 
become a jagoff, winding up eventually giving them shit just like the 
rest of the jackoff NCO Army lifers and officers. I told those guys 



454 Bud Monaco 



to bite my ass, and didn't give them any further concern about the 
matter. I now had the SGT stripes, and that was the way it was. 

The next morning, I went over to the Air Force PX, purchased 
some extra SGT collar pins that I would need, and also purchased 
some three-stripe, gold Army chevrons that I would have sewn onto 
my khaki and dress green uniforms. Later that morning, I took my 
khaki and dress green uniforms over to the base tailor shop and had 
my new chevrons sewn on properly. Damn, the new, bright gold 
Sergeant Stripes looked great sewn onto my uniforms. I couldn't 
wait to wear them sometime soon. 

That evening after dinner mess call, I went back over to the 
Air Force PX where there were public phones available to make phone 
calls back to the States. I just had to call home and tell my Dad and 
Mom about my promotion. They were real happy for me, and my 
Dad said that he was real proud of me for making the promotion to 
sergeant, just like his younger brother Tony had done in WW II. The 
phone call was short and sweet as back then a phone call to the States 
cost a dollar per minute, and the minutes piled up real fast 
during an overseas call. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 455 



Chapter 68 

Unfortunate Legacies Of Vietnam 

"Serious Combat Has Nothing To Do With Fair Play. 

It Is Bound To The Bone With Hatred. 

It Is Bound To The Bone With Disregard For All Rules. 

It Is Bound To The Bone With Sadistic Pleasure. 

It Is Bound To The Bone Witnessing Violence And Death. 

Welcome To Total War' 

Late in October, a new SGT arrived and was assigned to HHC 
mortar platoon. That soldier was returning from his combat tour 
in Vietnam. He was a very discontented soldier who had been in 
some heavy combat. He just wanted to finish his Army service fime 
and get the fuck out of the Army. I signed him into the Training 
room, taking care of his weapon qualification and PT files, showing 
him the respect he deserved. 

Only a few days after he arrived, two men dressed in civilian 
clothes walked into the Training room, asking me if that SGT was 
recently assigned to our unit, and wanted to know where the CO's 
office was located. I told them he was assigned to our unit, and that 
the CO's office was next door. Those two guys had a way about them 
that told me they were nothing but trouble, and I was right. It turned 
out that they were from the Army Criminal Investigafion Division 
(CID), and were known as Federal Army cops out of Fort Belvoir, VA. 

As soon as they went into the CO's office, I went looking for 
the SGT and told him the CID was in the CO's office looking for 
him. He looked at me with a serious look on his face and said, ''Fuck 
those motherfuckers! They got nothing on me," and said nothing else. 
A short time later, I saw him go into the CO's office, and he was in 
there with the CO and the two CID guys for thirty minutes. When 
he came out, he stormed past my door muttering loudly, 
"Fuck them bastards!" 

Later that night in the barracks, I knocked on his SGT's room 
door and asked him, if he didn't mind me asking, what the CID guys 
wanted with him. He told me in confidence, not to broadcast around, 
that during the early days of his tour in Vietnam, he was in the 
Americal Division, and that his battalion was involved in the 



456 Bud Monaco 



My Lai massacre back in March, 1968, which very few people had 
known about as of yet. The massacre would soon become 
world-wide news not too far in the future. Sitting on a bunk across 
from the SGT, I could see in his piercing, deeply-saddened eyes that 
had a dark detached interest in them, and listened to the way he spoke 
with a hushed, disconcerting voice, that the soldier had been in some 
heavy combat shit, and had a very dark presence about him. 

He told me that his line company was not involved in the 
massacre, but after the killing had ended, his company passed through 
the village, bearing witness to the hundreds of villagers lying dead 
on the ground from one end of the village to the other. He said it was 
a brutal, total blood bath the likes he had never seen, and never saw 
again during his thirteenth month combat tour in Vietnam, and, he 
had seen a lot of death and destruction over there. The CID guys 
were investigating the incident and interviewing every soldier that 
was in the area at the time, looking for any information they needed 
to further their investigation. The investigation was put into effect 
from the highest, top echelons at the Pentagon and the White House. 
It was some real serious shit. The My Lai massacre would shake 
the White House, Capitol Hill, the Pentagon, and America, 
down deep to their foundations. 

The next week, two different CID investigators arrived at HHC 
looking for the SGT. I went and found him again to tell him that the 
CID guys were in the CO's office. He just looked at me dejectedly 
and said, 'Those motherfuckers just won't leave me alone. Fuck them! 
Vmfed up with this bullshit," and said no more. 

Later that night, I went to see this SGT again, asking him if 
everything was OK with him, and what those two CID guys wanted. 
He told me that they were investigating a different incident that had 
happened to him in Vietnam that blew my mind. 

He went on to tell me, one night after his unit had been out on a 
search and destroy mission during the day, they were safely inside 
the wire back at a fire base camp. One of the soldiers was a whack 
job, and the bullshit of Vietnam had put the soldier over the edge 
into insanity. The SGT and that soldier did not like each other to 
begin with, and during the night the soldier had approached the 
SGT looking for a fight. The SGT had a loaded .12 gage 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 457 



sawed-off shotgun on his bunk next to him, that he had just cleaned, 
and when the other soldier demanded that he stand up and fight him, 
the SGT, not wanting to have to fuck with that crazy bastard, brought 
the shotgun up, pointing it at the soldier from a sitting 
position on his bunk. 

He told him to back off, but the other soldier grabbed a hold of 
the barrel of the shotgun and said, "FU take this shotgun away from 
you and blow you away motherfucker!" The SGT told the soldier 
that was not going to happen, and to just walk away. By now, there 
were numerous other soldiers gathered around, and someone had 
gone to tell the platoon leader lieutenant what was going on, 
bringing the LT back to the bunker. With the other soldiers and the 
LT bearing first hand witness, the crazy soldier refused to let go of 
the shotgun barrel, tried to yank the shotgun away from the SGT, and 
the shotgun went off, blowing a hole the size of a Softball right through 
the crazy soldier's stomach, killing him instantly. 

With all the witnesses seeing this happen right in front of their 
eyes, they all knew that the crazy soldier was suffering from some 
major combat traumatic stress syndrome, and had a death wish, 
looking to get himself killed, but couldn't find it in him to kill 
himself on his own. So, that was why the CID was investigating and 
questioning the SGT. He had never been charged with any crime, 
and was not guilty of any wrongdoing. 

I was stunned sitting there listening to the SGT tell me about 
that, but I would hear about many more stunning incidents that took 
place in Vietnam during the rest of my time in service. There were a 
lot of Vietnam combat soldiers assigned to Panama following their 
tours in Vietnam, and many of them had plenty of shocking stories to 
tell. There was no lack of deep shit that went on in Vietnam that left 
deep scars, deep in the souls and minds of many soldiers who served 
there. Those were wounds that would never heal, becoming the 
disturbing and unwelcomed legacies of Vietnam Veterans for decades 
to come. It was not inherent for every soldier that served in 
Vietnam, but it was a legacy that every American and soldier had 
thrust upon them. 

During my first year of service in Panama at Fort Kobbe, 
I sometimes wondered if I had missed out by not serving in combat 



458 Bud Monaco 



in Vietnam. Before I was drafted, and during my Basic and AIT 
training, I didn't know jack shit about what was going on in 
Vietnam. After hearing, first hand, the stories about combat in 
Vietnam from soldiers who completed their tours that were then 
assigned to Fort Kobbe, I became well aware of my present situation. 

I knew without a doubt, I wasn't missing a thing, and was very 
grateful that my fate had sent me to Panama and not to Vietnam. 
I also learned, now having less than thirteen months left in my 
service that I could not be reassigned to Vietnam. A soldier had to 
have at least fourteen months left to serve to be sent there. So, I just 
continued my service right where I was nicely located without 
further thought. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 459 



Chapter 69 



Poncho Liner: What Poncho Liner? 
We Don't Need No Stinking Poncho Liner 

November, 1970, arrived, putting another month of my service 
time behind me as I looked forward to counting off the next 
seven months to my discharge date. Most of the time it seemed like 
time was standing still, but now it was hard to believe that I had been 
in the Army for seventeen months. Looking back on it now made 
it seem to have gone by in a flash. 

During November, the Battalion had another three-day training 
mission out in the field. Early one morning, just after first call and 
first light, we geared up, heading out to a new jungle location not too 
far from Fort Kobbe, in an area near Empire Range. Once the 
Battalion arrived at the site, it was nice to see that it was not total, 
triple canopy jungle, and there was plenty of open ground to set up 
the Battalion and HHC HQ's fire base. There was still a lot of 
surrounding jungle, but the Combat Engineers made short work 
of that with their Rome plows gouging out huge swaths of virgin 
jungle in a few hours. 

The Battalion had retained many of the same soldiers, officers, 
and sergeants included, over the past months, and the set up went 
along quickly, having past experience out in the field as a unit, 
everyone knew their assigned duties, performing them without a hitch. 

The normal procedures included setting up the Battalion and 
HHC command post tents as well as setting up the Battalion CO's 
personal tent. Now that I was a sergeant, I was assigned as the NCO 
in charge of the CO's tent detail with four guys to complete the 
detail. Once the tent was unloaded from the truck, we all started 
to wrestle with the heavy canvas, which needed at least four 
guys to get it erected properly. 

One of the guys on the detail was the artist wise guy, 
know-it-all, slacker jackoff from California, and he just sat down 
nearby and refused to help. So, I told him to get off his lazy ass and 
do his job. He then said to me, "Now that you are a SGT lifer giving 
out orders," which I surely was not, "What are you going to do 
to me? Order me to do the work, and if I don't, put me up for 



460 Bud Monaco 



an Article 15 or have me arrested?" Now the wise-ass was one of our 
bro crew and we knew each other well. I just couldn't straight out 
fuck him over. So I told him he was a jackoff, not giving him 
any direct orders, and without his help, I chipped in to help out the 
other guys with the work. 

While we were erecting the CO's tent. Top came around and 
saw me doing the work with the other three guys. He then said to me, 
"SGT Monaco, what the fuck are you doing? You are the NCOIC and 
your job is to supervise these soldiers. You are not supposed to do 
this work unless absolutely necessary." Yeah, right. I was supposed 
to be the boss, but I was the boss of shit. I told him that the slacker 
was sick and not feeling well. Even with the slacker fucking me over, 
I still went out of my way to cover for him. Top said, "Fuck that," and 
went over to where the slacker was sitting, grabbed him by arm, 
pulling him to his feet, screaming right into his face saying, "You 
sorry-ass piece of shit! Get off your ass, get over there and get to 
work or I'll kick your useless ass all over this fucking compound! 
If you are sick, then when this detail is completed, you can then 
go see the medics, and they will decide if you are too sick to 
continue your duties." 

Top continued to rage on the slacker, and told him that for fucking 
off, he was now assigned to the latrine slit trench digging detail as 
soon as this tent detail was finished. The slacker didn't say a word, 
fearing that he was about to physically get his ass walloped, and 
started right in helping to get the tent erected. 

It still galled me big time that we had to bust our asses putfing 
up this CO's personal tent which he probably wouldn't be using in 
the first place. So, while we were setting up the inside of his tent and 
his bunk with a mattress, blanket, sheets and pillow, there was also 
his personal, camouflage poncho liner. A camouflage poncho liner 
was a highly sought after piece of equipment, and was not available 
from the Supply rooms on any of the Army bases in Panama. Any 
poncho liners that the Army had were only available in Vietnam where 
they were needed, and only soldiers returning from Vietnam 
absconded with them, packed away in their personal gear, to their 
next duty station. A poncho liner was a prized possession 
and vigorously protected. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now ! 461 

I knew that a truck driver, who was one of our bro crew, would 
be driving back to Fort Kobbe for another load of equipment. I wanted 
that poncho liner so bad, that I folded it up real small, tucked it under 
my fatigue shirt, checked around to see if the coast was clear, went 
up to the cab of the truck before the driver left, and stashed it behind 
the driver's seat. The driver saw what I was doing and said, "What 
the fuck are you doing? If I get caught with this I'll get royally 
fucked!" I told him that I would be going back to Fort Kobbe in the 
next hour for some Training room manuals, and for him to stuff it 
under my mattress in the barracks. There would be no one around 
the company area except the CQ, and no one would see him do that. 

A little while later, I told Top that I needed to go back to Fort 
Kobbe and would return on the next available truck back to the base 
camp. By now, Top never questioned anything I did and gave me 
permission to do so. I hopped on the next truck going back, and the 
minute I returned, I ran into the barracks, found the CO's poncho 
liner under my mattress, put it in a small box, taped it up real good, 
and addressed the box to my parent's house back in Chicago. I hitched 
a ride on the next truck going back to the base camp with the box 
under my arm. I had the driver stop at the Air Force post office right 
down the street, and sent the box on its way out of Panama to Chicago. 

There would be no trace of the poncho liner anywhere to be 
found. Only the truck driver and me knew what had happened to it. 
The first truck driver never knew what I did with it. It was a different 
truck driver that stopped at the post office, and he didn't know what 
was in the box. So, I was the only one who knew, and in the Army, 
the only way to keep something secrete was not to let anyone else 
know about it. I thought I was so slick that I had absconded with the 
colonel's poncho liner, and there was no way I would ever get caught. 

Oh baby, was that sweet. I knew the shit would hit the fan once 
the CO realized that the poncho liner was missing, but I was totally 
free and clear of being the one who stole it, leaving no trace of it 
whatsoever. I still to this day, over forty years later, have that CO's 
poncho liner in my possession. I still laugh about the poncho liner 
coup I pulled off with great amusement. 

During that night, and the next two days, the Battalion 
completed numerous training missions, and we had one live fire 



462 Bud Monaco 



training mission nearby at Empire Range. All of the training 
missions went smoothly and were perfectly executed. The 3rd and 
the 5th was one, stract, well-oiled, Combat Ready Reaction Unit that 
had become the pride of the 193rd Brigade. 

There was one weird occurrence that happened while we were 
out in the field that surprised everyone. One morning, one of the 
sergeants didn't make roll call. So Top and I went looking around for 
him. We found him rolled up in his blanket on the ground next to his 
foxhole, and he was dead. I first tried to wake him by shaking him a 
bit, but he was stiff as a board. Top then pulled back the blanket, and 
we could see his face was stark white with his mouth agape. 

Top told me to run over to go get the medics, and when they 
checked him out, they confirmed that he was dead. Before we were 
allowed to move him, the battalion doctor had to be called in to 
officially pronounce him dead. I had never seen a dead man before, 
except in a coffin at a wake back home, so that was quite a unique 
thing for me. We then put him on a stretcher the medics had taken 
out of their ambulance, loaded him in and they took him to the Gorgas 
Army Hospital at Fort Clayton for an autopsy, and prepared the SGT's 
body for his return home for burial. Turned out, he had a heart attack 
and died on the spot out there on the cold ground in the jungle. He 
had only been in our unit for a short time, and no one 
really knew him. It was sad and too bad for him, but there was 
nothing anyone could do about it, and he was quickly forgotten 
about by the next day. 

It wasn't until our return back to Fort Kobbe, after the first night 
back, that the poncho liner was known to be missing, and all hell 
broke loose in the Battalion. The Battalion CO went on a rampage 
when he couldn't find his cherished poncho liner. Early, during the 
morning hours, around 4:00 a.m. before first light and first call, the 
CO ordered a full battalion shake-down inspection of every 
swinging dick's bunks, lockers, every platoon bay, every room, and 
every nook and cranny in all four of the Battalion Companies' 
buildings, including battalion HQ's building. 

The officers and platoon sergeants tore the shit out of 
everything searching for the missing poncho liner. It was pretty funny 
that so much effort was being made by so many officers and 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 463 



sergeants just to try to find that goddamned poncho hner. Everyone 
was totally pissed off about the shakedown inspection, having to wake 
up in the middle of the night, having their bunks and footlockers 
ripped to shit, and the officers and sergeants were not pleased with 
the situation either. It was a real miserable cluster fuck of an 
inspection, and even when it was all over, the poncho liner was still 
missing, never to be found. 

I was laughing my ass off inside myself about causing so much 
grief for so many soldiers, but I never let on to anyone that I had been 
the cause of it all. Fuck them. Fuck the CO, and fuck the Army. 
Eventually, the search for the missing poncho liner became a lost 
cause, and was soon forgotten over the next week. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 465 



Chapter 70 

Pushing The Envelope: Running Wild In The Streets 

''Unless You Have Been In Serious Danger. 
You Can Never Know Serious Courage. 
Sometimes Stupidity Begets Courage.'' 

With the poncho liner fiasco left behind in the wind, we were 
able to spend some time at two of our HHC soldier's 
apartments in Panama City. Most of the lifers had their families 
living with them in base housing, in housing in Balboa, or Panama 
City. It was not usual for lower-ranking EMs to be allowed to have 
their families living with them, but with special arrangements, an 
EM could put in the proper paper work to do so. 

Two of our HHC bro crew soldiers were able to get their 
paper work approved. One was a HHC airborne rigger from 
North Carolina who had his wife and little girl living off base in an 
apartment in Panama City. The other guy was a support platoon truck 
driver from Tennessee who had his wife move down to Panama. 

We spent quite a few nights whenever we could, hanging out at 
those two guy's apartments. It was a nice change of scenery being in 
a regular American type home environment, rather than being in the 
barracks, or hanging out in the decadence of K Street. We would 
listen to music, shoot the shit, and the wives would feed us with 
some home cooking that was always a welcomed treat. We always 
had an enjoyable and comfortably good time. 

There was another wild and crazy event I was involved in that 
almost got me thrown in the Panamanian shit-house jail, and almost 
got me shot, and maybe killed. With the hootch pusher man dead, the 
only way to acquire reefer was to go downtown, and fmd a cab driver 
who had small amounts to sell. It became a pain in the ass to have to 
make the trip downtown, and go through so many changes just to 
buy small quantities that would not last very long. 

What we figured, in our infinite wisdom, if we could buy a pound 
of Panama Red from the wired hootch guy that we had previously 
met in the off-limits hootch bar in Panama City, we could divide it up 
between all the bro crew into nice little bags that each guy could 
easily conceal. That way, everyone would have enough stash to hold 



466 Bud Monaco 



them over for more than a few days at a time. 

One night, four of us decided to try to pull off the operation. We 
made our way downtown to Panama City and had a hootch cab drop 
us off right in front of the hootch joint, so we would not have to be 
walking through an off-limits area drawing the attention of any MP 
patrols. We walked into the joint and sure as shit there was the wired 
hootch guy sitting at the bar. He spots us the moment we walked in, 
and hurriedly shuttled us into the back room. We told him what we 
wanted and he said, "Hey, GIs, no problem. I know you GIs, and you 
guys real cool dudes. I get you anything you need." So we give him 
fifty bucks, he tells us that he will be right back in less than a half 
hour, and he was out the door. We were wondering if he was going 
to rip us off for the dough, but it was only fifty bucks which 
wouldn't be a big loss between us. 

We ordered some rum and colas, and not twenty minutes later, 
the hootch returns, pulling a tightly compacted, a little smaller than a 
house brick, pound of Panama Red from under his shirt, placing it 
right on the table in front of us like it was a pound cake, not worrying 
about anyone else seeing it right out in the open. The only people in 
the joint were hootch gangsters who didn't give a fuck anyways, so 
we had nothing to worry about in there. He said, "Hey, GIs, how 
about this? You like? This is the best stuff I get you 'cause you real 
cool dudes. You need some coke too?" We told him no on the blow, 
but with a fast look at the brick and it smelling real fresh, we told 
him we would take it with us. 

We quickly started to bust a move out of the joint, and, big shot 
me, stuffed the unit into the waist-band of my pants under my belt 
with my shirt hanging over, covering it up nicely. As soon as we 
walked out the front door, and hadn't walked twenty feet, we heard a 
voice behind us say something. At first we didn't pay any attention 
to the voice and kept walking back towards K Street to find a cab 
to take us back to the base. 

Now we hear the voice again louder saying something to us. 
Turning around to take a quick look as we kept on fast-walking, there 
was a Panamanian man, sharply dressed, wearing the ubiquitous, 
four-pocketed, white Panamanian dress shirt, and a tan Panama hat. 
We knew instantly that he had to be a Panamanian DENI undercover 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 467 



cop. DENI was the National Defense of Investigation for the Panama 
Police Force which was under the command of the Panamanian 
National Military Command. We knew about the DENI cops, and 
they were no one to fuck with. 

We kept on walking forward not missing a step, and I said to the 
other three guys, "That fucking hootch set us up for a bust. As soon 
as we reach that corner ahead, everyone split up, run your asses off, 
and get lost on K Street or wherever. He can't chase all of us." The 
DENI cop then shouts out loudly in English, "You, GIs, stop right 
there. I am the police!" None of us hesitated for a second, kept on 
fast-walking, and as soon as we hit corner at the street intersection, 
we all took off in different directions running like bats out of hell. 

And I'll be damned, that the DENI cop started running after 
me. I figured he would take off after one of the other guys. It was a 
one in four shot that he would come after me, and if I had bet on it, 
I would have lost that bet. I kept on running like hell down streets 
that I didn't know, turning corners, not knowing exactly which way 
was back to K Street, trying to keep the brick of grass from falling 
out of my pants waist and falling down my leg. I just kept running, 
and this DENI prick kept chasing me, but he couldn't close on me as 
I was faster than he was or ever would be. 

Scared shitless of getting caught, sweating my balls off by now, 
I figured if I kept cutting down streets to my right, they would 
eventually lead me to the Panama City border, separated by Fourth 
Of July Avenue with Balboa and the Canal Zone on the other side of 
the street. I knew that the Panamanian cops had no jurisdiction and 
were not allowed in the Canal Zone. It would be sanctuary for me if 
I could get there without that prick cop still chasing me. He was 
hell-bent-for-leather to catch me, but I kept on running as fast as I could. 

Finally, after about ten minutes of running at full speed, I could 
see Fourth Of July Avenue ahead of me a block or so in the distance 
down the street I was on and pushed myself to continue to run faster. 
Then, on the corner of the last intersection, not thirty yards from 
Fourth Of July Avenue, there were three fucking LaGuardia Nationale 
soldiers standing around on the sidewalk on guard duty, guarding the 
front entrance of a Panama bank building. And, they were all heavily 
armed, slinging M-16 rifles on their shoulders with strapped down 



468 Bud Monaco 



.45 caliber pistols on their pistol belts. 

All the banks in Panama City were guarded twenty-four-seven 
to protect them from the rebel insurgents hiding out in the 
surrounding rural areas that would break in and rob any bank left 
unguarded in a New York minute. Or in that case a Panama City 
minute. Holy fucking shit! What was I going to do now? I couldn't 
go in any other direction, the DENI cop was right behind me, and the 
only way to freedom would take me right past the three soldiers. 

I quickly pulled up, stopped running, and came to a brisk walk. 
As I approached the three soldiers, passing right by them on the same 
sidewalk, I kept walking, gave them a slight wave with my hand and 
said, "Buenos notches, amigos." None of them returned the greeting. 
The three of them were just lazily standing around smoking 
cigarettes, and at first didn't pay much notice to me, but they were 
sure eyeballing me. Just as I walked ten feet past them, I heard the 
DENI cop shouting out to them in Spanish, "Alto, alto, policiaca, 
amigos." Looking over my shoulder about twenty yards away, the 
DENI cop continued yelling out to them in Spanish, which I could 
only assume was for them to stop me or blow me away. 

I now hear all three of the soldiers start to yell out to me, "Alto, 
alto, alto, Americano." The second before I broke into a dead run, 
other than their voices yelling out to me, it was dead quiet on the 
streets. I could hear the noise from the metal parts of the shoulder 
straps on their M-16s clicking clearly as they un-shouldered their 
weapons. Then I heard the heart stopping sounds when they started 
chambering rounds from their/w/fy loaded ammo magazines into the 
breeches of their weapons. I was absolutely fucking terrified dind took 
off running like I was shot out of a cannon. 

In a flash of time, I reached the end of the street on the back side 
of the bank building. It butted right up to the asphalt roadway of 
Fourth Of July Avenue, with only a foot-wide curb between the bank 
and the street. The end of the sidewalk next to the bank was a couple 
of feet higher than the street, and Fourth Of July Avenue was a very 
busy roadway, bustling with heavy traffic going both ways, 
travelling at thirty to forty miles per hour. 

Without hesitation, I launched myself off the sidewalk, 
literally, flying right over the end of the sidewalk with my feet and 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 469 



ass slamming down and landing on the hood of a passing car, which 
damned near ran my skinny ass over. By some miracle, I wound up 
sliding off the hood, landing on my feet in the middle of the street 
unharmed. If that car had hit me, I would surely have been killed, but 
that was the least of my worries. 

I was visualizing in my mind at that point as I leapt off the 
sidewalk, it was a pretty piss-poor way of how my life was going to 
end. Running madly through the desolate, garbage-strewn streets of 
Panama City from cops and soldiers with a pound of grass in my 
pants, visualizing those soldier fucks shooting me in the back as they 
unloaded their, American-mside, supplied by my own U. S. Army, 
M-16s on full auto, which would surely have killed me, Sin American 
Serviceman, and winding up lying dead, shot to shit and bleeding 
out in the middle of Fourth Of July Avenue! What a fucking way to 
go. Shot down inflames! It was not a pretty visualization one bit at 
all ! Fuck me! I was in a world of shit. 

I somehow managed to run through the busy traffic of the 
oncoming cars across the street with some of the drivers slamming 
on their brakes to avoid running me over, causing at least three or 
four cars to crash into each other. I reached the far side of the street, 
ran up a small grass embankment, hurdling myself over a five foot 
chain link fence into Balboa Citizens Park. I was now safely, as safe 
as I could presently be, in the Canal Zone. 

I quickly dropped down onto the ground in a prone position 
taking cover behind one of the first trees in the park I located about 
ten yards from the fence line. I was profusely sweating like a whore 
in church, soaked in sweat from head to toe, breathing real heavy 
from the exertion of the long run, and my heart was beating so fast 
and heavy, I thought it was going to explode right out of my chest. 

From my concealed vantage point I could clearly see the large 
traffic accident that I had caused, backing up traffic for blocks. It 
looked like a fucking train wreck in an old WW II movie where 
John Wayne or Robert Mitchum blew up a German Gestapo Nazi 
military railroad train. There were cars all smashed into each other, 
headlight and taillight glass scattered all over the roadway, dozens of 
drivers climbing out of their cars, raging around screaming 
at each other in Spanish. 



470 Bud Monaco 



Even with my ass still in a sling, and still being scared shitless 
with what I was going through, I found that all to be quite 
hysterically amusing and started laughing my ass off. I felt like I was 
in a movie and was amazed with myself that I had not got caught, 
shot, killed, or all three. I felt like I was tripping on acid, and having 
a real bad acid trip at that, but finding it hysterically funny. 

And, to top it all off, I could clearly see, standing on the narrow 
sidewalk next to the bank building on the Panamanian side of Fourth 
Of July Avenue, there was the goddamned DENI cop! This prick cop 
never gave up, and I have to give him credit for his dedication to his 
job, which probably didn't pay much anyway. He was like a 
Canadian Mountie chasing a fugitive, just like Lee Marvin chasing 
Charles Bronson in the 1981 movie, 'Death Hunt' and he thought, 
like a Mountie, he would always get his man, but I wasn't having 
any part of that shit. 

He had sweat pouring off of his head and face, breathing heavily 
with his lungs heaving, rubber-necking around up and down the street, 
and trying to see into the park, looking to see where the fuck 
I disappeared to. I'm sure he was hoping to see me smashed under 
the wheels of one of the crashed vehicles, but I had fleet-footed, 
out-run his ass, out-dodged the traffic like a perp chase scene 
from any number of TV cop programs, and was out of harms 
way for the moment. 

And, he had lost his pretty Panama hat, as I could see the sweat 
glistening off the top of his bald head. And, standing right next to 
him, were the three armed LaGuardia soldiers with stupid looks on 
their faces, holding their M- 16s at port arms, at the ready, locked and 
loaded, looking to bring holy hell down on me if they thought they 
could find me, get off some clean shots, and blow my American ass 
away. They all looked totally pissed off big fime, and seeing them 
pissed off like that made the situation all the more amusing to me as 
I continued to laugh my ass off. 

During that time, I frantically removed the package from my 
pants, set it next to the tree, remembering the locaUon so I could 
come back to retrieve it, if I would have the chance, and low-crawled 
away, hugging the ground a couple of trees further away in the 
unlighted park to keep my position concealed. I couldn't believe that 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 471 



I was so lucky being able to hold onto it, and that it didn't fall down 
my pants leg or pop out of the waist band of my pants while I was 
running. More amusement for myself that I enjoyed further. 

Once I got my heart rate and breathing back to normal, 
I low-crawled about fifteen yards over to some bushes near the 
sidewalk and street that ran through the park. I looked around 
carefully, checking to see if the coast was clear so nobody could see 
me come out of the bushes, got to my feet, and casually walked down 
the street like I was taking a walk in the park on a beautiful, balmy, 
Saturday night in the Canal Zone. The park road led out into the 
main street of Balboa where the movie theater and restaurants were 
located. I was now sure of my location and surroundings, and planned 
my next move. That would be a real doozey too. 

Walking through Balboa, I was considering my options. The 
best option was for me to just fmd a cab and go back to the base. The 
second option was to go back into Panama City, over to K Street, and 
see if I could fmd the other three guys hanging out in one of the juke 
joints we frequented. The third option was to try to recover the unit 
in the park, and get safely back to base with it. Of course, if the first 
two options weren't chosen or didn't work out, I would choose 
option number three. It was like I was in Army-thinking-mode on 
a mission and would get to my objectives to complete the mission. 
I couldn't resist the challenge. 

I stopped in the restaurant we had frequented on previous 
occasions in Balbo and had a coke and some fries. I also used the 
men's room to wash my face off and clean up a bit. I had been 
sweat-soaked, but most of the sweat had dried off I still had some 
dirt on my face and clothes from low-crawling on the ground in the 
park to clean off. I took care of that, and I was feeling much 
better now. It was a good thing it wasn't raining or I would have 
been covered with mud. 

I walked quite a few blocks north through Balboa on the west 
side area of Fourth Of July Avenue, so that when I crossed the 
roadway back into Panama City. I would be well north of the 
off-limits area and the streets were the DENI cop had been chasing 
me. I then skirted around the area and found my way back to K Street 
from the east. It was late Saturday night. K Street was jumping and 



472 Bud Monaco 



jammed curb to curb with GIs, pimps, whores, hustlers, and traffic, 
as I stealthily weaved my way through the mass of humanity up and 
down the strip. I stopped in three or four of the juke joints we 
frequented, but didn't find any of my bros hanging out anywhere. 

I was being real cautious, keeping a sharp eye out for the DENI 
cop or any MP patrols that might have been on the lookout for me. 
I was figuring that maybe the DENI cop had crossed paths with an 
MP patrol, telling them about the situation, and to look for me 
roaming around the streets. With the train wreck vehicle accident 
I had caused, a lot of people in those cars had seen me running across 
the roadway causing the accident, and they might have been able 
to identify me to the MPs. There surely had to be MPs and Canal 
Zone Police investigating the accident scene, and finding out 
whom or what caused it. 

I now put option number three into effect. I found a hootch cab, 
climbed in, and directed the driver to take me into Balboa. At first, he 
didn't question me, as hootch cabs were heavily frowned upon by 
the Canal Zone police to be on the streets of Balboa. But when 
I directed him into the park, had him stop on the park road near the 
spot I had stashed the unit, and I told him to wait a minute, he got 
real nervous and started asking me quesfions about what I was up to. 
I told him to relax, ripped a twenty dollar bill in half, flipping half of 
it over the seat, and told him he would get the other half 
when I got back, and there was more where that came from. That 
shut him up real fast. 

I checked around the area to make sure nobody was around 
before I got out of the cab, located the unit right next to the tree 
where I left it, stuffing it into my pants again, and got back in the cab. 
I told the driver to take me to Fort Kobbe and we were on our way. 
I was still pretty nervous, but I sucked it up as we drove over the 
Bridge Of The Americas and through the front gates of the base. 
The driver pulled up in front of HHC building, I paid him the fare, 
gave him the other half of the twenty, and flipped him another 
sawbuck. He never said a word, seeming to be very relieved 
that I was out of his cab, and was rolling away even before 
I closed the cab door. 

I walked up the stairs into the barracks bay, and there were two 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 473 



of the guys that were with me that I had been looking for downtown, 
sitting right there on their bunks relaxing with the rest of the guys of 
the bro crew. They looked at me questionably with shocked looks on 
their faces, and both of them at the same time excitedly said, "Holy 
fucking shit? What the fuck happened to you? Did the DENI cop 
catch you? What happened to the unit? Are you OK? Where the fuck 
have you been? It's been over three hours since we split up. We 
thought for sure you were a goner, busted and locked up in some 
Panamanian shit-house jail!" 

Looking at them with a cock-sure, wise guy attitude, just about 
laughing hysterically I said, "What the fuck do you think? You fucks 
think that less of me, and of my extraordinary capabilities, that 
I wouldn't complete the mission, and lose the unit? You think 
/couldn't out run some jackoff, chicken-shit, Panamanian DENI cop 
and get away? You should never doubt what I am capable of doing. 
/ fucking made it!" Then, I pulled the unit out of my pants, and tossed 
it onto one of the bunks and said, "Check this out, brothers! Am I the 
real deal shit or what?" Those two guys couldn't believe their eyes 
seeing the unit there on the bed, and we literally, with the rest of the 
guys, falling down on the bunks and the floor laughing 
hysterically together. 

Once we stopped laughing, I asked them where the fourth bro 
crew guy was. They said they hadn't seen him since we split up when 
the DENI cop first started chasing after us. We were a bit concerned 
that he hadn't returned to the barracks by now, but figured nothing 
bad could have happened to him as he wasn't carrying any 
contraband and was travelling clean. 

So, I said, "After the shit I iusi went through, let's bust into this 
unit and smoke some shit. If I ever needed to relax before, I surely 
need to do so right fucking nowT We broke off some buds from the 
unit, rolled up a Johnson or two, and with the first hit, I was in heaven. 
That was just great. 

We then went into an empty SGT's room, broke up the unit into 
small parts, and passed those parts out, equally divided, to the rest of 
the guys. We secured it away, concealing it in hide locations, making 
sure no one got caught holding the bag. Then, I started telling the 
crew about what happened to me. It took me at least an hour or more 



474 Bud Monaco 



to give them the run down, and everyone was totally blown away by 
my exploits. None of them could believe what I had pulled 
off, especially when I told them about the LaGuardia soldiers 
chambering live ammo rounds into their M-16 weapons. 

I was King Shit the Ragman, and all the bro crew hailed me as 
they congratulated me accordingly. I would be held in high esteem 
for a long time to come, and reveled in my new found celebrity. It 
was pretty cool. It was a pretty stupid stunt overall, but still pretty cool. 

About two hours after I was back and had told my story, our 
fourth bro finally came sauntering into the barracks like nothing had 
happened. I asked him what the fuck happened to him and where he 
had been all that time. He calmly said that after he had been running 
for six blocks or so, he ducked into a movie theater to hide out, 
watched the same movie three or four times until he thought it was 
safe to go back out into the streets and get back to the base. I asked 
him what movie he had seen, and he said that he didn't know, 
because it was a Spanish movie. All the dialogue was in Spanish, 
and he couldn't understand a single word. We all laughed our asses 
off about that, and then I retold him about my exploits as he sat there 
in amazement hearing me tell him all about it. 

By now, it was very late, and we all started to turn in for the 
night. Before we broke up the party, I turned to the crew and said, 
"By the way, I will never be doing that again! No fucking way in 
hell, ever again! If I'm ever so bored with nothing to do or want 
a Johnson and don't have one, fuck it\ I'll stay right goddamned here, 
and pull my prick before I ever try another stunt like that!" Everyone 
had a good final laugh as we all hit our racks and went to sleep. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 475 



Chapter 71 

Good Times 

The next day was Sunday, and after breakfast mess call, the 
bro crew all headed down to Kobbe Beach to hang out on the 
rocks. I was still the talk of the town and the cock of the walk as the 
crew and I were still buzzing about what happened the night before. 
It was a few hangs later before the story got old and became a thing 
of the past. As with the stories related to us by the returning 
Vietnam veteran soldiers, and the stories of our collective exploits in 
Panama that continued to abound with the rest of us, it brought to 
mind in a closely resembled parallel from an old TV series; "There 
are eight thousand stories in the naked city. This has been one of 
them." Well, "There were thousands of stories in Vietnam and Panama, 
and these have been some of them." Corny, but yet oh so very true. 

During the next week as the days of November passed. Top had 
a runner tell me he wanted to see me in his office. First thing 
I thought was that I had been fingered for the accident in Panama 
City on Saturday night. Top rarely called me into his office, so 
I was real concerned. 

I walked into his office and reported, "SGT Monaco, reporting 
as ordered, IstSGT." He told me to stand at ease and sit down. He 
told me as I was the NCOIC of the Training room, also called the 
Operations room for combat missions, that I would have many 
documents and informaUon cross my desk, and would be privy to 
that information from USSOCOM, Brigade HQs, Battalion HQs and 
HHC HQs. He further said I would need to have a Top Secret Crypto 
Clearance to be properly vetted according to Army regulations. He 
handed me an Army request form to fill out, bring it back to him, and 
he would pass it up the chain of command. 

Top also told me, being the NCOIC of the Training room I would 
need to put in a request form to have my primary and secondary 
MOS changed. I presently had a primary MOS of 1 1C40, Indirect 
Fire Mortar Man, and a secondary MOS of 1 1B40, Combat Infantry 
Soldier. With my present, now permanent job assignment, I would 
need to have an MOS of 1 1F40, Operations NCO. Top gave me the 
required form to fill out, and I went back to my office to complete 
both of the forms. 



476 Bud Monaco 



The form had to be filled out and have listed accordingly, my 
name, rank, serial number, military awards, time in service, home 
town, age, race, religion, completed school education with named 
schools, parents names, brothers or sisters with home addresses, 
grandparents names, relatives who served in the military, civilian 
jobs I had before I was inducted, if I was an alcoholic, if I used illicit 
drugs or was a drug addict, if I had any history of mental illness or 
physical defects, if I was a homosexual, if I was a racist, if I was ever 
in a gang or associated with anyone in a gang, if I had ever visited 
a foreign country, and if I had ever been arrested or charged with 
a felony or misdemeanor crime. 

The form also asked if I was or ever was a member of the 
Communist Party, knew any person or had any association with any 
person in the Communist Party, or any other subversive groups that 
discredited the U. S. Constitution or American Democracy. Damn, 
they sure wanted to know a lot of information about me for that 
clearance, but I had no problem with any of the questions, was able 
to fill out all the questions, and write down all the requested information. 

I returned to Top's office when I finished filling out the forms 
and gave them to him. He said he would send them up the chain of 
command after he and the CO signed them. About three weeks 
later. Top told me that my clearance had been approved, and the 
authorization form would be put into my Army 201 File over at the 
Personnel office. Over the following months, I had forgotten about 
the request for my MOS change, and when I was discharged it was 
never updated in my Army 201 File. The Top Secret Crypto 
Clearance paper work was not in there either. Even though the two 
authorizations were not in my Army 201 File, once I was discharged 
from the Army, I could care less about them, never giving 
them further thought. 

I did hear from my Mom and Dad a month or so later in a letter 
they sent me after I submitted the form for my clearance. They were 
very concerned about me, and why an FBI Agent had visited them at 
home asking them all sorts of questions about me, and lots of 
personal questions about them and our family. 

I asked Top about that, and he told me that the clearance 
I requested went right up the chain of command all the way to the 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 477 




Pentagon. The following procedure required the FBI to investigate 
and authenticate everything I had written down on the request form. 
The military and government took that clearance shit real serious, 
and wanted to be exactly sure they knew everything about anyone 
requesting and receiving high government and military clearance. 
They left no stone unturned to thoroughly check out any applicant. 
As the days of November passed, we would always find new 
ways to entertain ourselves. One weekend, four of us decided to rent 
a car from a Panama City car rental agency and drive around to see 

places we had not seen or visited. 

y ft ^^ David from St. Louis, two other 

k^^ ^_y W i guys from the bro crew and myself 

rented a powder blue Volkswagen 
Beatle Bug, and headed out to do 
some exploring of Panama. 

We drove around parts of 
Panama City we hadn't been to 
before, checking out numerous 
monuments, old and new government buildings, and the Paitilla 
Airport, which was a private airport used by the high ranking 
Panamanian officials, and was the President Elect Commanding 
General of the Panamanian military. General Omar Torrijos' private 
airfield. General Torrijos was put into power by the American 
Politicians and with American military support during the recent 
revolution take over coup only a few years back. We didn't see much 
there as the airfield was a restricted area, and well-guarded. We were 
soon rousted by a military patrol wanting to know what the four of us 
American soldiers were doing around there. We were quickly shagged 
away. It was the same airport that Noriega commandeered during his 
reign of terror, and the Navy Seals attacked and took over during 
'Operafion Just Cause' in 1989. Noriega kept his private jet there and 
the U.S. didn't want him getting out of Dodge before they could 
arrest him and bring him to trial. So the Navy Seals blew up the jet 
before that could happen. 

We found our way up to Ancon Hill and the surrounding 
neighborhood in the Canal Zone. That area was where the top 
American generals, admirals, ambassadors, and high ranking 



478 Bud Monaco 



American government officials worked in their office buildings and 
lived in their exclusive residences. It was also a highly restricted 
area, and we just drove around the streets for a bit, leaving the 
area in short time. 

We then drove out into the interior a ways, and on the way back 
in towards the city, we drove back into the Canal Zone, found our 
way to the Miraflores Locks, and did the tourist routine. I had 
visited the locks before, but it was still pretty cool to see the 
lock operations again. 

Later in the afternoon, we headed towards an area outside of the 
Canal Zone, about ten miles southwest of Kobbe Beach, not far from 
the small Panamanian town of La Chorrera, where the Rio Caimito 
river flowed into the bay, and found a small dirt road that led us right 
onto a beach of the Bay Of 
Panama. We drove the VW 
right out onto the sand, and 
with the ocean tide out at the 
present time, we were able to 
drive the VW out onto the hard 
packed sand flats about a half 
a mile or more from the 
normal high tide shoreline. 

Driving onto the sand as if the VW was a dune buggy, we were 
ripping around the beach as fast as the VW would go. Then, we tried 
to see if we could get the VW to go fast enough on the sand so we 
could cut the steering wheel as hard as possible to the left or right 
trying to see if we could make it roll over. We couldn't just rest by 
driving on the sand like normal people. We just had to fuck off and 
try to push the VW to its limits. We had no fear of getting hurt in a 
roll over on the sand, and didn't give a rat's ass if we wrecked the car. 
It was just a rental, and we had bought the full car insurance 
package to cover any damage. 

We were bouncing around inside the VW like a bunch of circus 
acrobats in a mattress store, and having a ball. As hard as we tried, 
we were not able to roll that bugger over. We were laughing our 
asses off the whole time. Eventually we brought our wild revelry to 
a halt, stopped the car and dismounted on the beach. 




DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 479 




We had brought some bottles of soda with us, a portable 
cassette player, popped a cassette to listen to some music, and fired 
up a Johnson. It was an absolutely beautiful place. It was a pristine, 

seldom used beach, and not 
a soul in sight except us, with 
pure, clean, light brown and 
golden sand. The Pacific 
Ocean water was sharply 
stunning with its ever present 
sapphire, turquoise and 
aquamarine, vibrant colors, 
uniquely changing their 
shades like a kaleidoscope, as the light, white-capped waves gently 
splashed onto the shoreline. The ever blazing hot and crimson 
tropical sun was shining brightly down through an azure, shockingly 
blue, perfectly clear, cloudless sky. 

Taking a short walk not thirty yards from the guys, taking in the 
enormity expanse of ocean and miles of unblemished golden sand, 
I found a large, perfectly shaped, bleached-white-from-the-sun. Conch 
shell, just sitting right there on the tidal flat. I grabbed it up and was 
trying to blow into it, to make sounds come out of it, like I had seen 
in the 196 1 , Elvis Presley movie ''Blue Hawaii.'" I eventually sent the 
Conch shell back home to my parent's house, and I still have it on a 
shelf in my home to this day. It has always been a cherished 
souvenir. The place was absolutely paradise. 

Sitting there on the beach, a bit stoned on the smoke, with the 
music caressing our ears, enjoying the beauty of it all, we had lost 
track of the time, and did not notice that the fast-rising ocean tide 
had been coming in. When we did finally notice the tide, it already 
just about had us surrounded. The place we had pulled up to where 
we were sitting on the sand was on a slightly higher sand bar than the 
rest of the beach tide flats. We were now surrounded by water, just 
about ready to get swamped by the tide. We quickly collected up 
our stuff, piled into the VW, fired it up, and started to make 
our way off the tidal flat. 

The first paths we tried to take off the flats were already too 
deep to drive the low framed VW through. After three or four 



480 Bud Monaco 



attempts, we luckily found a drivable spot through the water that came 
half way up to the middle of the VW's tires and were able to make 
our way back to the original shoreline. Holy shit! That was a really 
close call, and we would have been screwed big time. While we 
lingered on the shoreline for a while longer, the fifteen foot tidal 
surge of the Pacific Ocean engulfed the tidal flats where we had been 
hanging out. The car would have been destroyed by getting swamped 
under the tide, and we would have had to swim back to the 
shoreline. Of course, we found that all to be hysterically funny and 
were laughing our asses off We sure did a lot of laughing our 
asses off all the time. 

Just before nightfall, we drove the VW over to Balboa and had 
some dinner in our favorite restaurant. Then, we drove over to the car 
rental joint in Panama City, turned it in, and grabbed a hootch cab to 
take us back to Fort Kobbe. We had a great day and we all enjoyed it 
immensely. We told each other that we would have to do it again 
sometime soon further on down the road. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 481 

Chapter 72 

New Sergeant's Room: Privacy In The Army Defined, At Best 

During the first week of December, 1970, a lucky fortune came 
about for me. One of the personnel platoon, specialist fifth class 
E-5 soldiers shipped out, and a SGT's room space opened up in one 
of the other HHC buildings that the Personnel office was located in. 
The Personnel office took up most of the first floor, with barracks 
bays on the two floors above. One of the building's ground floor 
bays was where the HHC shooting team operated out of, and the rest 
of the ground floor contained the base tailor shop and dry cleaners. 
The battalion medics platoon, which was part of HHC, lived in those 
barracks, along with the shooting team squad, the personnel 
office platoon, Battalion and HHC Company clerks, and the 
communications platoon soldiers. 

I asked Top if I could make the move into the private room, and 
he said I could. So, I hauled my bunk, footlocker, gear and clothes 
across the street into my new room. Where the HHC's CO's and 
IstSGT's office and the Training room were located in the main HHC 
building, in that building, those areas were sectioned off into five, 
narrow, SGT's private rooms with locking doors. My roommate was 
a Personnel office SP5. We knew each other for quite a while, and 
got along well, although he was not part of the bro crew. 

A couple of notable things came about while I was bunking 
down in that room. One was that my SP5 roommate was a hockey 
fan, and his parents sent him a table hockey game from back home. It 
was the type of game that was a three foot long hockey rink, which 
had flat, metal hockey players hooked up to metal rods that extended 
with plastic knurled tips on both ends of the board, allowing the 
operator to turn and spin the players around, and move them up and 
down the slots on the board. It allowed the operator to spin, slide and 
shoot the small wooden puck with the metal players around 
the board and into the net. 

The guy and his pals were pretty good at the game, but a couple of 
my friends back home had the same game, and we played the game 
endlessly for hours and hours on end, just about every day and night. 
Me and the guys back home became real good at playing that game. 



482 Bud Monaco 



These guys thought they were good at the game, but when 
I started playing it with them, /could beat the pants off of them every 
time. I was really good at the game. None of them could ever beat 
me. It used to piss them off big time, and we almost came to blows 
more than once over the game. I was unbeaten, and considered 
myself the champion, much to their distress. It was always a major 
contention between us, but I always enjoyed my celebrity. 
Those guys didn 't enjoy it at all. 

Another notable incident happened late one night while my 
roommate and I were lying down on our bunks. I was writing a letter, 
he was reading a book, and we were listening to some music at a low 
volume. It was otherwise very quiet when we both heard a faint 
rumbling sound. We looked at each other with no immediate concern 
and continued what we were doing. Then, the rumbling sound got 
louder and louder, and within the next few seconds, the floor and 
walls started visibly shaking, and our bunks started to actually move 
across the concrete floor. We felt the strong vibrations right through 
the metal frames of our bunks and mattresses, not knowing what the 
fuck was going on, as our bunks continued to dance across the floor, 
now bumping into each other. 

The way the concrete walls were shaking, I thought for sure 
they were going to buckle and crash down on top of us. Now, we 
could hear many soldiers shouting loudly throughout the building 
and from outside in the battalion street. We jumped out of our bunks, 
pulled our pants on, ran out of our room and out into the battalion 
street. By now, there were already hundreds of soldiers out in the 
streets, and they were screaming out, "Everyone, get out of the 
buildings. Get out of the buildings right now! It's a fucking 
earthquake! It's a fucking earthquake T 

Soldiers were scrambling madly, half-dressed, in underwear, and 
some were even naked, down the stairs, and running out of the 
buildings like crazy. Standing in the street we could feel the ground 
shaking and moving around under our feet just about knocking us off 
of our feet. The buildings were visibly swaying, with a few curved, 
red clay roof tiles breaking loose from the roofs of the buildings, and 
smashing to smithereens on the concrete below. Holy fucking shit! 
We thought the buildings were going to come crashing down all 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 483 



around us as we looked on in amazement. It was total mayhem out in 
the street. Soldiers were still screaming for everyone to get out of the 
buildings, and to get away from the buildings in case they did fall down. 
We now heard an air-raid siren wailing and cascading loudly 
through the air. The PA system was barking out with a voice blasting 
out loud, telling everyone to get out of the buildings and to 
a safe location. It was really something. 

Then, as quickly as the earthquake had started, it just as quickly 
ended, and the ground and the buildings stopped shaking. In a few 

seconds, everyone stopped 
shouting, and it became deadly 
quiet from one end of the 
battalion street to the other. The 
air-raid siren stopped blaring and 
the PA became silent. An 
eerie, demonic quietness came 
over us. We expectantly waited, 
wondering with serious concern 
what might happen next. Nothing 
happened. Nothing! 
The earthquake was over, and there were no following 
aftershocks, as the menagerie of soldiers standing around in all 
manners of dressed and undress looked like something out of a comic 
book. Everyone slowly and cautiously proceeded to walk back into 
the barracks, suspiciously expecting whatever might come next. The 
earthquake would be the topic of 
conversation for the next few 
days and then forgotten about, 
but the experience would 
always be remembered. 

Only about three weeks 
later in December, my good 
fortunes continued, as one of the 
HHC sergeants shipped out, and his sergeant's barracks room in the 
main HHC building became available for me to move into. There 
were two SGT's rooms in each barracks bay, and they were 
separated from the open barracks bays by two walls and a door that 





484 Bud Monaco 



locked. The SGT's rooms were highly sought after as there were not 
enough of them to go around for all the SGTs. 

I shortly thereafter, as soon as I had the SGT sign out of the 
Training Room, asked Top if I could move into the room, and he 
gave me his permission. I then had to move my bunk, footlocker, and 
all my gear from the building I had moved into just three weeks ago, 
back into the HHC building. It was done in short order, and I was 
so glad to now have my own, private room with a lock on the door. 
I wound up, periodically, sharing the room with other SGTs, as they 
rotated in and out of Fort Kobbe, but generally, I had the room to 
myself most of the time. Privacy in the Army was not readily 
attainable, and that was a real sweet set up. Ninety-eight percent of 
the time, you were never alone in the Army. Comfort was in short 
supply, if any, as silence, privacy, and non-stinking soldiers were 
always non-existent. I would be bunking down in that SGT's room 
for the rest of my service time until I was finished with my overseas 
tour and discharged from the Army. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now ! 485 



Chapter 73 



Just Another Army Detail, And The French Cut 

One morning, Top told me that he was putting me in charge of 
a detail, and to pick out five volunteers. The detail was for us 
to go to the Army Tropic Test Center (ATTC) over in Corazal and 
carry out a mission. I said to Top, "No one is going to volunteer for 
anything." He said to me, "SGT, haven't you learned anything about 
the Army? You first ask for volunteers, and when no one volunteers, 
then you give them a direct order. Got it?" 

So I picked out a couple of guys from the mortar platoon and 
the recon platoon, called the support platoon sergeant 

to have a driver and truck be sent 
over to pick us up, and we were on 
our way to the ATTC. 

The Army Tropic Test Center was 
a highly classified operation that tested 
new weapons, communications gear, 
electronic surveillance equipment, 
clothing, combat gear, and a host of other 
military equipment. The military 
installations in Panama were ranked as 
the number two echelon for all U. S. 
military equipment, supply and testing, 
with Vietnam being the number one echelon. Everything in Panama 
was high priority, and the Brass and lifers were as serious about that 
as a one legged man in an ass kicking contest. 

When we arrived at the ATTC, I reported in to the IstSGT in 
command. He directed me to report to a master sergeant in the next 
building. We loaded back up into the truck, and were taken to a 
location out near Empire Range. The MASSGT had us dismount 
from the truck, and we headed into the jungle on foot. He did not tell 
us why we were there or what we were doing. We just kept on 
tramping around in the triple canopy jungle, at times having to cut 
our way through the thick jungle with machetes. 

After the first hour or so, we stopped to take a break and I asked 
the MASSGT what we were trying to accomplish out there. He told 




486 Bud Monaco 



me the Army was testing a new version of electronic surveillance, 
which aircraft would drop camouflaged electronic antennas that had 
a small electronic receiver attached to them. The units had jungle 
penetrating probes that would cut through the canopy, stick into the 
floor of the jungle, and the antenna wings would pop out to send an 
electronic signal. Unless you had radio transmitters that could read 
the signal, you would never know they were there. He further said, 
there were Army airborne warning and control systems ( AWACs), in 
specially designed, Boeing E-3 Sentry aircraft, flying overhead 
undetected, above thirty thousand feet that would receive the signals 
from the antennas on the ground. 

That type of surveillance was presently being used in Vietnam 
to locate enemy troop movements who were under the cover of triple 
canopy jungle. When an AWAC received a signal of enemy 
movement on the ground, it would call in an air strike to that precise 
location with exact coordinates to bring death from above, and blow 
the living shit out of any 
enemy for hundreds of yards 
in the vicinity. It sounded 
simple enough, but it had a few 
major drawbacks. 

The electronic signal could 
not distinguish between enemy 
soldiers, friendly soldiers, 
civilians, or animals triggering 
the signal. There had been quite a few ugly incidents, causing 
friendly-fire casualties upon American troops, Vietnam civilians, and 
a lot of rice farmer's precious water buffaloes. Those new units were 
designed and being tested to correct the problems. Hopefully, they 
got it right with the new design. Friendly-fire casualties were 
one of the worst tragedies of war. 

We never saw or came across any of those devices during the 
three or four hours we were tramping around in the jungle, but the 
MASSGT assured us they were there and working properly. 

The ATTC detail was completed a little after noon, and the 
MASSGT cut us loose. Seeing that I was the NCOIC of the detail, 
the six of us could get away with some ghosting to kill off the rest of 




DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 487 



the working day, and no one would know the difference. So, we 
stopped over by the ATCC to waste some time and visit with the SP4 
pal of mine there. I then had the driver take us to Balboa, and we 
went to our favorite restaurant to have a mid-afternoon lunch. We 
took our time eating, and by the time we got back to Fort Kobbe the 
working day was done, and it was time for dinner mess 
call. Not a bad day at all. 

Over the weekend, the bro crew decided to explore what is known 
as the French Cut. It was an abandoned part of the Panama Canal 

that was started when the French 
first tried to dig the Canal in 1 88 1 . 
It was located south of the present 
day Panama Canal. The French did 
not have much success digging in 
that location. They screwed up on 
their surveying assessments, 
as well as their engineering 
operations. After a few years' time, 
trying to dig and blast their way 
through solid rock formations, 
suffering from malaria, with over twenty thousand workers dying of 
disease or accidents, they eventually ran out of money. After nine 
years of frustration, the French pulled out, not continuing any further. 

President Teddy Roosevelt decided to take over the operation in 
1904, and the American engineers completed the task in 1914 to 
open the Panama Canal for business. It is regarded as one of the 
greatest feats of engineering in the world. 

What was left of the non-usable, excavated section surrounded 
by the jungle, after the French pulled out, was about a mile or so 
long, a hundred yards wide, and filled with water fifty feet deep. It 
was a fairly remote area with no civilian inhabitants anywhere nearby. 
There was an overgrown, small dirt road off of one of the arterial 
roads to gain access to the location. It was actually a really nice place 
to hang. There was still some open areas, and large, packed-down 
mounds of earth that had been left from the dirt they had excavated 
out of the unfinished canal. David and a couple of guys had dirt bikes 
and motorcycles that they were able to ride up and down the mounds 




488 Bud Monaco 



of dirt, having a ball jumping the bikes over the tops of the dirt mounds. 

The water in the cut was crystal clear, and from the many years 
both ends of the cut were sealed off, it was filled with clean ground 
and rain water with little trace of ocean salt water. You could see all 
the way to the bottom from the surrounding tops of the excavated 
rock walls. The straight-cut rock walls were about forty feet above 
the water line. The water was deep enough to dive off of the top of 
the wall into the water below. You had to have some big balls to do 
that, as looking down from the top of the wall to the water below, it 
looked more like hundreds of feet. At first, I had no intention 
of busting any moves to dive from that height, but the guys taunted 
any of us that didn't want to make the jump, as it was like 
a badge of honor to do so. 

So, of course, I had to give it a try. I was scared shitless standing 
on the edge of the wall, but I finally got my courage up and made the 
jump feet first, into the water 
below. It seemed like it took 
forever before I hit with a big 
splash, taking me a dozen 
feet deep into the water. 

The plunge into the 
water was shocking from that 
height, and with the water 
jamming up my nose like a fire 
hydrant, it made me gag. 
I swallowed a lot of water and thought I was going to drown, but 
I managed to swim back to the surface, grabbed a hold of the side of 
the rock wall, and climbed out of the water. The guys on the top of 
the wall were all cheering and I was yelling my ass off, screaming 
out, "I fucking did it. I fucking did itr My heart was pumping so 
hard I thought I was going to have a heart attack, but it was so fucking 
exciting, I climbed back up the small cut-out path back to the top of 
the wall, and took the plunge again. What a great experience it was! 
I thought I was so fucking cool. 

Down at the far end of the cut under twenty feet of water, there 
were old, abandon, giant steam shovels, an old steam locomotive 
train engine, and a couple of open-top train cars used to load and 




DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 489 



haul the excavated material out of the cut on train rails that were still 
in place. A couple of the guys had some snorkeling gear, diving face 
masks, wide rubber swim fms, and they would dive down to explore 
the abandon excavation equipment right up close. David had done 
some skin diving back in Missouri, and offered to show me how to 
use the snorkeling gear, but I told him I was not a good swimmer. He 
said not to worry. He would go down with me to make sure 
I made it back to the surface if I got in trouble. 

I strapped on the gear, and took 
some time to learn how to use the 
snorkel and the fms in the water. Once 
I figured out how to take a breath 
through the snorkel properly, I went 
below the surface and swam down to 
the abandoned equipment. It was pretty 
cool down there, and as the water was 
perfectly crystal clear, I could see 
every detail of the steam shovels, the 
locomotive engine, and train cars. 
There were a few fish swimming 
around, but not too many. It was cool to see the rust and barnacle 
build up on the equipment that was inches thick from being under 
water after so many years of passing time. 

It was a very emotional, surreal and eerie feeling being down 
in those depths as I had never before done any diving like this. 
I pictured in my mind the thousands of men who worked with those 
machines in a time long past. I could only stay under water for thirty 
seconds or less at a time before I had to resurface and breathe in 
some more air. I made about six dives before I wore myself out and 
had to take a break. It was another really cool adventure that 
I would remember for a lifetime. 

Our time at the French Cut came to an end later that day, 
but I would return here a few more times during my service 
time in Panama. It was always a wonderful adventure, and 
I never grew tired of it. 




DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 491 



Chapter 74 

Army Snipers: The Real Deal Assassins 

''The Time Comes To Pick Up A Gun. 
When Rhetoric And Debate Is No Longer Viable.'' 

During my short stay in the Personnel office building, I finally 
got around to meedng a few of the soldiers that were assigned 
to the Battalion Shooting Team squad, as they were called. Those 
soldiers were assigned to HHC, but were rarely seen, and absolutely 
did not mingle or associate with any of the Battalion or HHC 
soldiers. They were a very secret group of soldiers who operated on 
their own schedules, never had to stand guard duty, CQ duty, attend 
morning formations, roll call, be assigned to any details, bunked down 
in their own barracks bay, and were rarely seen in the mess hall. 

I had been told once, they represented the Army and the 193rd 
Infantry Brigade as the highly regarded Army Shooting team, 
competing with many other Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, 
AlHed military forces, and Olympic shooting teams in the U.S. and 
from all over the world. They were held in high esteem by the Army 
Brass. They kept the Army ranked on the top level of competition 
shooting and marksmanship. It was a big deal for the Army Brass. It 
gave them the bragging rights over all the other competitors, if the 
team outshot and outscored the competition. 

In order to maintain a high level of competition, they had to 
train at the rifle range for hours on end, morning to dusk, every day, 
operating outside of the HHC and Battalion parameters on their own. 

I had come across a couple of those guys in the Training room 
when they signed in to HHC, and had taken care of their training 
files without quesdon and by the orders of the IstSGT. 

Late one afternoon, as I was walking into the Personnel office 
building to go to my room, they were unloading gear from their truck 
into their secreted Shooting Team bay, which was similar to the Mortar 
bay on the ground floor. I stopped and said hello to one of the SGTs 
I had seen before, and asked him what the Shoofing team was all 
about. He told me to come with him and took me into their bay. He 
then, in general terms, explained to me about the competition and 
training they did. 



492 Bud Monaco 



I asked him why everything they did was so secret, and why 
they had no real contact with the other soldiers in the Battalion. He 
said he would tell me a little bit about the team, but I was not to talk 
about it with anyone else, and to keep it close to the vest. He knew 
I was the Training room SGT with a Top Secret Crypto Clearance, 
and knew how to keep my mouth shut. 

He went on to say, the Shooting team had a second, classified 
operation mission as Army snipers. All the members of the team had 
been Army snipers in combat in Vietnam and were still active Army 
snipers, taking on many missions in different locations. 

The main reason they were so secretive was because there were 
bounties on their heads in effect, with orders by foreign enemies to 
kill them for the missions they had completed, and no one was to 
know who they were or were they were located. Those Army snipers 
had killed hundreds of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong enemy 
soldiers, including many high ranking generals, officers, and cadre 
from the southern Deltas to the northern Highlands, and sometimes 
deep into North Vietnam territory. They had taken a major toll on the 
enemy and were the most feared killers in Vietnam. 

"Holy shit! I had no idea," I said to him. He then said in a low, 
disquieting voice, 'That is by design, and that's how we need it to be 
at all times. Our lives depend on our secrecy. Only the Battalion CO, 
SGTMAJ, the HHC CO, and IstSGT know who we are and what we 
do. Now you know and understand why you can never discuss our 
operations with anyone else." I said, "That will be no problem, SSGT. 
My lips are sealed." 

It took constant training to keep those unique skills at the 
highest degree of excellence that an Army sniper had to attain. That 
was why the Shooting team spent all their on duty time and long 
days at the rifle range. 

He then asked me if I would like to see a real deal sniper rifle. 
He opened a hard-shelled case, taking out a custom made. Army 
manufactured, M-24 Sniper rifle with long action, chambering a .300 
Winchester Magnum or a .338 Moly Coated, high velocity, Lapua 
ammo round. A Redfield, 3-9X40 mm, accu-track, and a 
precision-made eye scope was properly mounted onto the rifle. 
Properly used, the rifle could take out an enemy a thousand yards 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 493 



away or more. What a fme looking weapon it was, and it was so cool 
to see it up close. I figured there was no way he would let me handle 
it, so I didn't even bother to ask. 

I thanked him kindly for taking the time to talk with me, and 
that if there was anything he ever needed, or that I could do for him, 
or any of his team members, to just let me know, and said good-bye. 

I further learned on my own. Army snipers or any military 
snipers were a very select, weird, strange breed of soldiers that stood 
alone in the ranks of the military. Army snipers were solitary men 
who completed missions on their own, or sometimes as a two-man 
sniper team, with a spotter to assist the shooter in acquiring their 
targets. They bunked alone, ate alone, travelled through the bush alone, 
and were not close to any other soldiers besides other snipers. Even 
those acquaintances were very limited, at best. They were lone wolves, 
living in private secrecy amongst other soldiers. 

I'm sure some of them had demons in their heads, but controlled 
their minds in the utmost sense, and stayed completely focused on 
their missions without any remorse or second thought considerations. 
Those soldiers were the complete package as killing machine 
assassins, and held back with total control, any mental emotions about 
blowing away a human enemy target with extreme prejudice. When 
an enemy combatant was lying on the ground with his brains blown 
out and his blood spilling out of his head, he would have never even 
heard the rifle shot that had just killed him. 

A sniper had to also be an extreme expert in camouflage and 
stealth. He had to know how to live off the land, travel undetected, 
stay totally concealed at all times, become physically part of the 
terrain to get in proper shooting position to acquire and take out his 
target. To be a totally efficient sniper, the shooter was expected to 
take out his target with one kill shot. 

Having the opportunity to take a second shot was not realistic, 
and did not happen often. Once a target knew that he was in the 
sights of a sniper, he would take cover immediately. Once the target 
was aware of the shooter, or once the target was killed, the shooter 
knew other enemy soldiers would come looking for him real quick 
in force. He had to egress his shooting position quickly or he would 
become a target himself. Maybe even being caught and becoming a 



494 Bud Monaco 



POW, and would end up with the shooter being eagerly, viciously 
tortured, and killed by his very pissed off captors with 
extreme prejudice. 

The Army sniper's motto and highly regarded creed, which was 
coined by a Marine Sniper, Gunnery Sergeant Hathcock, who had 
ninety-three confirmed kills in Vietnam, was, "One Shot. One Kill!" 
Fm pretty sure that motto and creed was used and accepted by all 
military snipers, no matter what branch of service they were serving. 
Nothing less was accepted or considered. What tremendous fear a 
sniper could put into the hearts and minds of any enemy soldiers. 
They gave no quarter and expected none in return. Snipers were known 
and feared for their precise application of death without notice upon 
the enemy. It was nice to know that the U. S. military had the best 
trained and most feared snipers in the world. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 495 



Chapter 75 

A Garrison Soldier's Nightmare Begins 

''Misguided Passions Of Life Inflames Wrong Doing. 
Dominating Others Is Only A Lust For Power' 

With 1970 coming to its end, which couldn't end fast enough 
for me, the Christmas and New Year's Day holidays were 
approaching. Everyone would have some holiday time off-duty, and 
a half-dozen guys of the bro crew decided to take a trip out to Toboga 
Island to spend a few days there. The island was a favorite resort and 
tourist destination. Toboga Island was the home of the San Bias 
Indians and was part of Panama, but mainly populated and inhabited 
by only the indigenous San Bias Indians. The island was about ten 
miles off the southern coast waters in the Bay of Panama, and 
the only way to get there was by a ferry boat that made daily 
trips out to the island. 

The island was mostly virgin jungle, with beautiful, pristine 
beaches, a hotel or two, a few restaurants, and numerous other 
amenities to attract the Central American tourist trade. I didn't care 
to make the trip, and took a pass on travelling out to the island with 
the guys. They planned on having a great time, but what should 
have been a great time turned out to be a total fucking nightmare 
for all of them. 

While the guys were on the island one afternoon, they were on 
the beach taking in the sun and doing some swimming in the warm, 
Caribbean water. While they were on the beach, a hootch island 
hustler approached them and asked them if they wanted to score some 
reefer. So of course, they said yes, and bought a couple of pre-rolled 
Johnsons from the guy. They burned the Johnsons in a short period of 
time, got a nice buzz going, and that was the end of that. 

Later that afternoon, after spending their time on the beach, they 
headed back to the hotel to clean up and get something to eat for 
dinner. After dinner, they went back to their hotel rooms to cool out 
and within minutes of returning to the two rooms, the Panamanian 
La Guardia police and a couple of DENI cops busted down the doors 
with guns drawn, searching the guys, their bags and the rooms 
looking for dope. The cops found nothing. Not a Johnson, not a stem. 



496 Bud Monaco 



not even a single seed. None of the guys had any dope or contraband 
whatsoever. They were all totally clean. 

Well, the Panamanian and the DENI cops hated American 
Servicemen, and would do anything in their power to have a reason 
to make an arrest. The cops were all pissed off that they did not find 
any contraband, but they were out for blood one way or another. It 
seemed like the cops had a heads-up, were sure that those guys would 
be dirty, and completely tore the rooms apart looking for shit. All the 
guys could figure was that the hootch hustler set them up, and told 
the cops he had sold them some reefer. There was no other reason for 
the cops to be there in the first place. 

The Panamanian cops had complete power of authority outside 
of the Canal Zone, and could make shit up if they were so inclined to 
do so. And, that was exactly what they did. They were not going to 
go away empty handed, so they arrested all six of the guys for 
suspicion of possession of drugs. Unbelievablel Suspicion of 
possession? What the fuck was that? They just couldn't believe 
what was happening to them. 

All six of the guys were immediately arrested, handcuffed, 
shoved into the back of a police truck, loaded onto the ferry boat, 
loaded into another police truck at the dock, and taken to Carcel 
Model prison in Panama City. Originally, they figured it was a big 
misunderstanding, and the situadon would be cleared up in a short 
Ume. That was not to be. 

They were officially arrested, booked, and locked into prison 
cells. The Carcel Model prison was right out of the Middle Ages. 
Carcel Model prison was notoriously known as a place where 
prisoners entered and never seen alive again. It was jammed to the 
cell block walls, overcrowded with hundreds of criminals, rebel 
insurgents, and polifical detainees from all over the country. This is 
where the American civilian, Kurt Muse, was imprisoned, and 
rescued by the American Delta Force during 'Operation Just Cause' 
in 1989. It was brick-by-stinking-brick filthy, had no toilets or 
running water in the cells, no bunks or mattresses to sleep on, having 
only the concrete cell floors to sit or sleep on. It was absolutely one 
of the worst hell holes in the world, all the way around. The Carcel 
Model prison was surrounded by closely-packed together, 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 497 



broken-down ramshackle housing, in the heart of the worst slum 
neighborhood in the world, which was known as the 
La Commandancia, in a peripheral section of downtown Panama City. 

The prison was surrounded by twenty foot high, concrete walls, 
topped off with dozens of strands of, cut-to-the-bone, circular 
razor-edged barbed wire. There were guard towers on all four 
corners of the compound, with two guards in each tower armed with 
fully loaded M-16 rifles, keeping a close eye on both the inside and 
outside of the prison walls. Those rat-ass fucking guards were 
trigger-happy scum, more than ready to blow anyone away that came 
close to the wall on the inside, and damn well would blow anyone 
away on the outside trying to climb in. Anyone trying to climb in 
would surely have to be one demented, stupid motherfucker. 

During roll call on Monday morning, those six guys who got 
arrested were not accounted for in formation, and became listed on 
the morning report as unauthorized absence (UA). Up to that time, 
none of us had a clue about what had happened to them. 

After PT and breakfast mess call, from the window of the 
Training room, I saw a jeep pull up out in front of our HHC building. 
Two Army MPs and a second lieutenant got out and entered the 
building, heading right into the CO's office. They were only in there 
for a few minutes, left in a hurry and drove away in the jeep. Top 
called me into his office and told me that our six guys had been 
arrested and were being incarcerated in the Carcel Model prison 
awaiting trial. He said that under Panamanian law there was nothing 
the military could do about it and had absolutely no jurisdiction to 
intervene whatsoever under the Panama legal system. Whatever the 
outcome of a trial would be, those guys would suffer the consequences 
of the Panamanian authorities and be sentenced at the discretion of 
the Panamanian court. Our guys were in deep shit. 

Top told me that the 2nd LT was the Army judge advocate 
general (JAG) liaison officer, the legal operations of the Army, and 
gave me his phone number to call him the following day and see if 
there might be any liaison action that might be helpful. Top told me 
not to expect much help if any at all. He was familiar with the 
Panamanian legal system and told me, ''It is totally fucked upV 

I called the JAG LT first thing the next morning. He said his 



498 Bud Monaco 



hands were tied and there wasn't a goddamned thing he or the 
American mihtary command could do to help out our guys. I asked 
him how that could be possible that American soldiers could be 
arrested and not be allowed proper legal counsel or have any recourse 
available to them. Here we were as American soldiers protecting 
freedom, civil rights, and democracy, yet none of these basic human 
rights were available for our soldiers. He told me that was the way 
things were done down there. 

Although America had established some chicken-shit form of 
democracy in Panama in the recent past years, Panama's corrupt courts 
and ass-backwards legal systems were many years away, still stuck 
in the Stone Age, from operating as a proper democracy. The LT said 
that was the way it was, with no other recourse, and not to bother 
him about the matter any further. It was out of his hands. Holy shit! 
There had to be something that could be done about the travesty. 
What the fuck kind of law was going on around there, and how could 
America turn its back on our soldiers, allowing them to languish 
in a foreign prison? 

I told Top what the liaison officer had to say, and Top said, "He 
is just another dumb ROTC reject jagoff who don't care about any 
shit but his own." Top said that in the meantime, he was going to 
make a few phone calls and see what trees he could shake. Top was 
born in Panama, but grew up in America. He still had family and 
friends in-country, and would try to get some further information or 
possible help. Top also said for me to get a hold of our rough terrain 
vehicle operator, who was also a Panamanian native raised in America 
who spoke fluent Spanish, and he would be able to help in any 
language translation needed in court. 

A few days later. Top got the information from the Army JAG 
office that the guys were going to have a bail or trial court 
appearance the following day. What little information that was 
available was pretty vague. Top suggested that the RTVO soldier 
and I go to the Panama courthouse the next morning and try to 
find out what was going on. 

The next morning, we found our way into Panama City to the 
beat-up, dilapidated government building that was a poor excuse for 
a courthouse, located the courtroom with the RTVO using his 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 499 



Spanish language for directions. When we entered the courtroom, it 
was an outrageous sight, looking like an open casting call for 
Chuck Barris' Gong Show. 

The small, unpainted-in-years, courtroom, was packed wall to 
wall with scruffy looking street people, prostitutes, pimps, hustlers, 
junkies, poor peasants, farmers, men of all ages in many states of 
clothing attire, old women with small children hanging on to their 
skirts, and there had to be dozens of other small children running 
around playing, with no visible parental supervision in sight. It was 
pandemonium as everyone was talking, literally, shouting and 
yelling across the courtroom to each other. And, there was, 
/ kid you not, an ancient, white-haired, hunched over, bare-footed 
old lady who actually had, holding in her lap, two or three 
live fucking chickens in a cross- weaved, brown wooden basket! 
No bullshitl Live chickens! 

In the front of the courtroom, a judge was sitting behind a high 
judge's bench in serious need of a paint job. He was such a small 
man, you could only see his head from the neck up. On each side of 
the judge's bench, the uniformed bailiffs were two large-sized 
La Guardia Nationale police guards,/^//}; armed, holding at port arms, 
M-16 rifles locked and loaded, and looked ready to blow away the 
first asshole that was found out of order. Out of order! The whole 
fucking place was out of order \ 

With not one bit of semblance of courtroom order visible, people 
would seemingly, aimlessly walk up in front of the judge. You couldn't 
hear if they were talking to the judge with all the noise going on. The 
judge never looked like he was acknowledging any of them, or even 
looked directly at them, and without moving his lips to say anything, 
he just banged his gavel down sharply, and a person who must have 
been the court clerk, would shout out something unintelligible in 
Spanish, and the next person or group of persons would amble up to 
the front of the judge's bench. 

Close that case. Next case. That went on for two hours or so and 
I asked the Spanish speaking RTVO if he knew what was going on. 
He turned to me and said, "I have no fucking idea or the slightest 
clue about what's going on. This is a madhouse, and what I'm barely 
even to hear, I can't separate shit from shinola." There were no 



500 Bud Monaco 



prosecutors or defense lawyers in sight, and it became evident that 
the judge was the sole power in the courtroom. He was the 
prosecutor, defense, with no evidence of any defense apparent, jury, 
and judge, all wrapped into one. 

Then, a side door next to one of the armed bailiffs opened up, 
with another M-16 armed La Guardia soldier leading the way, 
followed by our six bro crew soldiers. All of them had their hands 
handcuffed behind their backs, and they were all chained together 
like animals, with another M-16 armed La Guardia soldier bringing 
up the rear. Holy fucking shitl It looked like an execution being 
prepared instead of a courtroom hearing of any sort. 

The six soldiers lined up in front of the judge's bench, and 
without any of them saying one single word, and without me or the 
RTVO hearing the judge utter a single word, in less than five 
seconds, the judge banged down his gavel, and our soldier friends 
were marched right back out of the courtroom through the side door. 

"Wow!" I said to myself, and then I said to my friend, "What 
the fuck just happened?" He responded with the same answer as 
before, 'T have no fucking idea or the slightest clue about what just 
happened." He managed to talk to a well-dressed man, dressed much 
nicer than anyone else in the courtroom, asking him if he knew what 
just happened to those six guys. The man told him, "The judge said, 
no bail!" Then the man would have no further conversation with my 
friend as if he didn't want anyone to see him talking to us. 

There was no sort of order that we could decipher. The judge 
was out of order. The charges were out of order. The people were out 
of order. That whole goddamned fucking courtroom was out of 
order! We could not find out any further information. All that was 
left to do for now was head back to Fort Kobbe, and let Top know 
what we had learned, which was nothing of any consequence, other 
than our guys were still alive. 

Three days later around mid-morning, unannounced, without a 
word of notice beforehand, five of the arrested soldiers climbed out 
of a hootch cab in front of HHC and calmly walked into the building. 
They looked like shit. Their faces, hands, and arms were filthy dirty, 
their clothes just about falling off of them like rags, and it looked 
like they hadn't slept or had anything to eat in a long time. One of 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 501 



them asked me if I could spot them a few bucks to pay for the 
cab ride, which I did. 

I told them iht first thing they needed to do was report in to Top, 
and I would make arrangements with our friend David in the mess 
hall to whip something up for them to eat. A few minutes later, they 
came out of Top's office, and I herded them into the mess hall where 
David and the mess hall sergeant laid out a boatload of food for those 
guys to wolf down. And the way they were wolfing the food down, 
shoveling the food into their mouths with both fists, you would have 
thought it was an Army competition for one of them to win 'The Best 
Knife and Fork Man in the Company Award.' 

Up to that time. Top, the Army, and I had no idea of what had 
really happened to them, other than they had been arrested. They had 
been arrested almost ten days ago, and until they started to lay out 
the story, no one had any idea of what had gone down. 

I then asked where the sixth soldier was who our bro crew pal 
from Virginia was. They said that he was not released with them, and 
they didn't know jack shit about him, other than he was still alive 
and locked up in the prison. They told me that early in the morning, 
some guards rounded them up from their prison cells, and without 
any explanaUon, they were marched out to the front gate of the prison, 
and released into the street with only the clothes on their backs. 

All five of the soldiers were shortimers. None of them would 
ever consider leaving the base again other than for military functions 
until their date eligible to return from overseas (DEROS) dates 
arrived. There was no way in hell any of them would take the 
slightest chance of getting fucked over like that again. 

That was really great to have them back safely at Fort Kobbe, 
but it was still a real fucked situafion that our other soldier friend was 
still locked up in prison. I would continue to look further into his 
situafion the first thing the following morning. To my great dismay, 
I could not find out any further information about our friend. I called 
the JAG officer to see if he could come up with any informafion, and 
he repeated that he could do nothing to help. I called the prison, 
putting our Spanish speaking RTVO on the phone with them, but no 
one there would give us any further informafion. Damn, that was not 
going well at all. So we continued to wait in vain. 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 503 



Chapter 76 

Christmas Time At The Orphanage 

''Some Have. 

Many Are Have-Nots. 

It's Better To Have Than Have -Not.'' 

As the Christmas week was approaching soon, Top called me 
into his office and asked me if I wanted to volunteer to go with 
him to visit the city of David, pronounced 'Da-veed,' located two 
hundred miles west of Fort Kobbe in the Panama Interior 
countryside only a few miles from the Costa Rica border. It would be 
a two-day trip to get there as the roads in the interior made for pretty 

rough traveling at slow speeds. 

The purpose for the trip was to 
bring Christmas presents and put on 
a Christmas show for an orphanage 
that was run by Catholic Missionary 
nuns. I thought it would be a 
cool thing to do, and I told him 
I would volunteer. He then told 
me to find nine other volunteers 
to make the trip with us. 

I was able to get nine of the other 
bro crew guys to volunteer, getting David Gruenewald on board first, 
and we were set to go on the upcoming weekend. Top had a couple 
of big boxes in his office loaded to the brims with Christmas 
presents he had been collecting over the past weeks. He also had a 
Santa Claus suit that one of the guys would wear so the kids could 
see and meet Santa Claus. When the day to leave arrived, I ordered a 
pair of one and a quarter ton trucks from the Motor Pool SSGT and 
two support platoon drivers. Top rode in the cab of one of the trucks, 
a new IstLT rode in the cab of the other truck, with five of us in the 
back of each truck, and we were on our way. 

The road to David City was part of the Pan-American Highway 
taking us past Rio Hato, but once past Rio Hato, there were very few 
villages and hamlets in the mostly uninhabited interior. Some 
sections of the road were barely passable, and there was nothing but 




504 Bud Monaco 



jungle on either side of the road. 

We passed through a small town called Ciudad de Anton, which 
was nothing but a few ramshackle buildings lined up along the road 
for no more than a hundred yards or so with few people to be seen. 
We continued on for hours, and eventually late in the afternoon, drove 
into the small town of Penonome which was known as one of 
Panama's last undiscovered treasures. There wasn't much to see with 
only a few buildings and a big church, and it sure didn't look like a 
treasure of any sort, but Penonome was the capital city of the Code 
province, and the La Guardia Nationale Provincial Army 
Headquarters was located there. 

The Army outpost was a small compound, surrounded by twelve 
foot high concrete walls, and a big iron front gate that was manned 
by fully armed La Guardia Nationale soldiers. Inside the compound, 
there were buildings freshly painted bright white with red tiled roofs, 
including a HQ's building, a mess hall, and barracks buildings. They 
were expecting us and enthusiastically hailed our arrival. 

We didn't know at first, but it was a real big deal to have 
American soldiers visiting their compound. Other than the soldiers 
stationed there, no one ever visited the compound. It was even a 
bigger deal for them having an American commissioned officer, and 
a high ranking American first sergeant in their compound. 
We were treated like royalty. 

The La Guardia CO and top ranking SGT came out of their 
HQ's building to meet us as we were dismounting from the trucks. 
The CO and SGT, with a few other soldiers that joined the group, 
came to attention and saluted the 1 stLT and Top. Top called us all to 
attention and we returned the salute sharply. Top told us to stand at 
ease, and he and the IstLT started shaking hands and introducing 
themselves to each other. The IstLT was wearing fatigues, but Top 
was decked out wearing his khaki uniform with all his decorations 
shining brightly. The La Guardia CO and SGT were very impressed 
as they looked over Top's decorations with high regards. The 
La Guardia CO and SGT had big, beaming smiles on their faces, and 
the CO grabbed Top in a bear hug welcoming him graciously in 
Spanish to his compound. It was a pretty cool scene all the way around. 

The La Guardia SGT then ordered a couple of his soldiers to 



DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 505 



help us with our gear and took us to the barracks where we would be 
spending the night. The barracks were pretty much the same type of 
set up as ours back at Fort Kobbe, but much smaller. There were 
double-stacked racks of bunks with mattresses, pillows, 
clean sheets, and blankets laid out for us. There was also a clean, but 
small latrine for us to use. 

We offered some cigarettes to the soldiers and they accepted 
the smokes enthusiastically, thanking us over and over, "Muchos 

gracias, muchos gracias" they 
kept repeating. Our Spanish 
speaking RTVO was with us. 
They told him in Spanish they 
never had American cigarettes, 
and it was a real treat for them. 
We had brought plenty of 
cigarettes with us, and I offered 
one of the soldiers one of my 
extra packs. He took one out, lit 
it up, and was handing the pack 
back to me. I told him he could 
keep it. The RTVO translated it, and the soldier wrapped his arms 
around me giving me a big hug repeating, "Muchos gracias, 
amigo, muchos gracias, amigo," over and over. I had made a 
new friend for life. 

Top and the IstLT went into the HQ's office with the CO and 
SGT to shoot the shit for a while. A short time later. Top came into 
the barracks telling us it was time to fall out for dinner mess call. Top 
then said, with a stern voice demanding our attention, "All of you 
will be on your best behavior as you are representing the United 
States Army. If anyone fucks up, or I get the slightest inkling that 
anyone was smoking anything non-authorized, I will rip off your 
heads and shit down your neck! Do you all understand me?" We all 
responded in unison with a resounding, "Yes, IstSGT, we 
understand you perfectly clear, five by five!" 

After those words of wisdom from Top, we headed over to the 
mess hall and were very surprised with what we saw. The La Guardia 
soldiers had laid out a major league feast for us to eat. There were 




506 Bud Monaco 



tables loaded with food, with servers standing behind the line of tables 
serving us slabs of steak, mashed potatoes, fried chicken, turkey slices 
covered in rich brown gravy, steaming vegetables, salads, and many 
different types of local desserts. Wow, what a spread they put out for us. 

While we were sitting down eating. Top assured us that those 
soldiers never ate like that. They were poorly supplied with only 
need-to-survive-rations and supplies out there in the mostly 
forgotten compound. It was a nice layout for us, but it was 
a real special treat for them. 

After dinner, we thanked the CO, the SGT, and the cooks, 
offering more cigarettes all around. They thanked us again over and 
over. Even the CO and SGT were 
thanking us graciously. Those 
soldiers couldn't get enough of our 
American cigarettes and smoked 
them like it was their last request 
facing a firing squad. 

We then headed back to the 
barracks for an early night lights out. 
We would be leaving very early in 
the morning to continue our trip to 
David. One of the guys said to me, 
sarcastically calling me Sarge, "Hey, Sarge, let's go out back and 
burn one." I told him and the rest of the guys, "That is absolutely not 
going to happen with or without me! Didn't you hear what Top said? 
If you get caught, I'll be the first one that Top will tear into because 
I'm supposed to be in charge. Don't make a jagoff out of me and 
force me to give you a direct order." As long as I had been a SGT, 
I never had to give any of the bro crew a direct order, and I didn't 
want to have to do it now. They all laughed a bit at me with a few 
friendly, but derisive chides, but no one busted a move to go against 
my wishes, and we bunked down for the night. 

The next morning, right after first light, Top came into our 
barracks to wake us up. We got our gear together, loaded it up in the 
trucks, and busted a move into the mess hall for breakfast. Again, the 
cooks had a big layout waiting for us with eggs, toast, bowls of 
oatmeal, sliced fruits, coffee and soda. We quickly wolfed down the 




DRAFTED: You're In The Army Now! 507 



food and fell out into formation in front of the HQ's building where 
the trucks were parked. The La Guardia CO, SGT, and most of the 
soldiers stati