The Poobah Files: Korea is a Pain in the Ass

To me, the Korean peninsula is more than just a place where crazy guys dressed in nuclear-powered leisure suits and bad hairpieces live. It's a place where I spent a month during the winter of 1979.

And I have a scar to prove it.

During my Air Force days, I traveled in my lumbering C-130 from North Carolina to Pusan, Korea via Albuquerque, Spokane, Anchorage, Midway Island, Wake Island, and Tokyo. After the four day jaunt, I peeled myself from the airplane, made a mental note to look into getting a new travel agent, and joined an annual military exercise called Team Spirit. Team Spirit entailed neither teams nor spirit so far as I could tell. In fact, I never saw a cheerleader or football team anywhere near Pusan.

The exercise was what they called a "field conditions" exercise in the Air Force. Aircrews of that era flew around the world and usually stayed in hotels even as the grunts we carried rolled out of the airplane and lived in tents...if they were lucky. These were the conditions that convinced me we'd never go to war unless there was a nice Ramada Inn nearby.

Field conditions at Pusan meant living in 6-man tents, not unlike the ones in M*A*S*H. The tents were arranged in a "city" of 2000. It had aluminum streets, a post office, movie theatre, fire department, police department, jail, mess hall, church, base exchange, liquor store, and the obligatory NCO and Officers Clubs. We got two hot meals a day in the giant mess hall, but field conditions meant a lunch of C-Rations (inedible forerunners of today's MREs). However, if you weren't up for them you could go to the snack bar at the base exchange and grab a hot dog and a beer.

Obviously, living conditions were rough. Imagine, existing on beer and hot dogs for lunch. It was quite uncivilized.

Despite hauling a complete city - including 10 kitchen sinks (I know, my airplane carried them) - 5000 miles across an ocean, the Air Force decided that gang showers were all they could muster for personal hygiene.

Apparently there was a problem with shortening the fairways at the portable golf course to make room for anything bigger.

The shower tent accommodated about 50 men and was divided into chilly, unheated shower and shaving rooms. The only heat was a third small, slippery, and excessively crowded room made unbearably hot by wet bodies and an oil-fired heater made from an old oil drum.

Designed by a defense contractor with a sick sense of humor, the towel room was as practical as the four-day, six-stop flight it took to get there. The 8X8 foot room was perpetually crammed with as many as 20 people struggling to dry off and pull on heavy winter uniforms. The wet, plywood floor was slipperier than a hockey rink, the shower steam reduced visibility to three feet, and the red-hot furnace was strategically placed directly in the middle. A recipe for disaster.

The snapping towels and people standing on a single mukluk-clad leg as they struggled to put on pants was more dangerous than any of us would ever face "in the field". More than once, someone fell out of the tent flap with their pants around their ankles and landed ass-first in the snowy mud outside.

And, of course, the contractor put the shower tent directly across the street from the mess tent door, providing a prime viewing area for all the mishaps. Sort of a crude dinner and entertainment complex.

One morning as I was stooped over drying my ankles, a large naked airmen tried to squeeze by me. At the moment of my maximum imbalance, his naked ass swung around, hit me in the head, and caused me to back pedal to keep my balance. Because of the slick floor, my back pedal turned into a back skate, ending with my naked ass smashing into the red hot furnace. I let out a howl, grabbed my backside and leapt forward - directly into the stomach of another airman close to the tent flap. As he tumbled backward, he grabbed my head for support and we both ended up in a tangled, naked heap in a huge, semi-frozen mud pit outside.

To the sound of cheers, I gathered my tattered dignity and went back to shower off the mud. The second time around, I dressed in the shaving room, gingerly pulling my pants on over my red-welted ass.

It was a long, painful walk to the field hospital where a giggling medical technician from the south applied lotion and bandages to my scalded butt. My treatment ended with her observation that, "I think that's gonna leave a scar. Ya'll have a nice day!"

So today when I see the silly little man with the WMD and bad hair, I think to myself, "That guy is a huge pain in the ass" and mean it quite literally.

Believe me, it throbs every time I see him.
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Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Wednesday, October 18, 2006

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