“Imagine That…(1) and (2)”
It’s pretty ironic.
If you saw me in person and in civilian clothes, you’d probably think I was someone’s meek, Asian driver or cook. But put a uniform on me, replete with gold “Jump Wings” and a silver “Dive Bubble,” and I’m magically transformed into some mysterious, dark-hearted assassin?
*Note to fellow Stickmanites:
Unlike other editors/webmasters/moderators, Sir Stickman is graciously generous about submission size limitations. (Are there any?)
Consequently, this submission contains all the content found in the below articles; all rolled up into one story:
“Imagine That…(1) – The Asian Angel of Mercy and Assassins”
“Imagine That…(2) – Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay (HDIP): Anything for a Buck?”
By Carl “J.C.” Pantejo, Copyright May 2008
Author “My Friend Yu – The Prosperity Mentor,” Copyright August 2007. Pantejo – Y.N. Vurce Publishing.
**The following story is incorporated in “My Friend Yu – the Prosperity Mentor: Book II,” Pantejo – Y.N. Vurce Publishing. Release Date: 2008.
When asked about my military career, I simply tell people that I was “Dumb, Stubborn, and Lucky (Dumb enough to volunteer, Stubborn enough to stay, and Lucky enough to survive).”
The “Imagine That…” series chronicles some of the more amusing experiences (that I can still remember) from over two decades of U.S. military service; most of which was in the Asian theater.
But, please keep in mind the following conversation:
Curious Man: “What did you learn from your years in the military?”
Me: “The first and last thing they teach you is to forget.”
Curious Man: “Who are they and what were you supposed to forget?”
Me: “I don’t know. I forgot.”
Curious Man: “I see. You must have been a good student.”
Me: “I’d like to think so.”
The above conversation gives a clue why some things will neither be mentioned, nor explained in some of the stories of this series.
Simply put, I forgot.
Nevertheless, I am certain you will enjoy these stories, my friend.
Carl “J.C.” Pantejo
“[Life] Amazing! Isn’t it?”
– Asian Angel of Mercy –
Assuming that I’d not heard her the first time, she repeated, “Chief, is there anything else I can do for you?”
She was a 19 year old Fil-Am (Filipina-American) who had recently graduated from Basic U.S. Navy Corpsman School. She was doing her mandatory clinical phase/rounds aboard this Navy Submarine Tender (a ship equipped with hyperbaric chamber facilities), the ship I’d been flown to almost 20 hours ago for hyperbaric treatment. I had just finished a Table VI (or V?) treatment in the “squeeze chamber” and was on the ship’s tiny medical sickbay cum ward.
The cute Corpsman had assumed correctly.
(And what a sweet ass-sumption it was! But I stray from the story. Many tangents will follow.)
I hadn’t heard a word of what she said since reporting to her ward. I was too enamored with her brown skin, almond eyes, and oh-so-slim and sexy body. Most other bodily functions were put on hold – except of course, you know what.
Us men are like that.
When I arrived at the Tender yesterday night, via emergency MEDEVAC (medical evacuation) helicopter, I was semi-conscious and clad in only my dive shorts (the Navy issued “UDT”, khaki-colored shorts worn by all U.S. military divers, Special Warfare, and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Teams) and wrapped in a couple of black wool blankets to combat the coldness of shock.
The helo crew and medical attendants were more than happy to release/dump me on the Diving doctor at the Tender. Apparently, and later verified by the official medical reports, I was so disoriented and obstinate that I tried to free myself from the gurney straps and jump out of the MEDEVAC helo… not once, but three times!
Luckily the attendants were consummate professionals; and although they couldn’t sedate me (sedation masked symptomatic alterations of consciousness and rendered further neurological checks useless), they nonetheless; “motivated” me to behave.
They did this by menacingly waving a large urethral catheter in front of my face while simultaneously snapping the bases of their surgical gloves! The meaning was instantly understood: “Chief, play nice or we’ll have to shove this rubber tube up your crank; AND/OR perform a sphincter muscle control check. BOTH WITHOUT LUBRICATION!”
Prudently, I acquiesced to these kind and caring medical professionals.
Most divers “free-balled” it.
We didn’t wear anything under our dive shorts. It was much more comfortable and practical. At least that’s what we’d rationalized as we pissed and crapped in our shorts during long dives, or scratched sand from our balls while on the beach.
Of course, we were more disciplined during cold water dives that required a wet or dry suit be worn over our dive shorts.
Fantasizing about the Filipina Corpsman, I was pitching a rather obvious tent under the bed sheets.
The Corpsman blushed as she took my vital signs.
She went about her business as professionally as possible (temperature, pulse, and blood pressure checks, I.V. drip check, neurological/circulation checks, level of consciousness checks, etc.) while still managing to steal glances, and sometimes longer looks, at my erection.
Probably projecting my wishes upon her, I could swear she looked hungry.
– Too much of a “Good Thing” –
She asked me if I was experiencing “priapism,” a medical condition characterized by an uncontrollable erection and can be caused by trauma to the spinal cord, various drugs, neurological disorders, and vascular diseases.
Prolonged priapism can be a medical emergency because the human penis was not meant to be perpetually engorged. The specialized, sensitive tissues can be permanently damaged or necrose (die). The condition is considered hazardous after three hours, critical after four hours, and a medical emergency after five or six hours (depending on the patient’s age and physical condition).
The treatment for priapism begins with mild, over-the-counter medication (e.g., pseudoephedrine). If that doesn’t work, treatment becomes more aggressive.
To make your erection go away, blood is aspirated from the corpus cavernosum (a reservoir for blood and pressure). Layman’s translation: The doctor sticks a needle in your dick and tries to deflate it by relieving the build-up of pressure. Sound fun?
Finally to the final of all options, if all else fails – AMPUTATION OF THE PENIS IS NECESSARY. Yikes!
That’s why the abuse of erectile dysfunction drugs (e.g., Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, etc.) can literally cost a man his own manhood!
“Unlike the mind, a penis stretched by new stimuli MUST return to its original size.”
I had only experienced priapism once in my life. It happened a few years ago after a rather nasty PLF (Parachute Landing Fall)…
…I couldn’t “John Wayne” it in (meaning: a trotting, stand-up landing) because we, my Jump Team on the stick, were jumping with old Army “Set 10” parachutes. These chutes were big, awkward to steer, and were made for average, “American-sized” men carrying full Army Infantry gear.
Everyone on my team was Asian or Hispanic and much smaller than the average American soldier. To make matters worse, we weren’t wearing any Infantry gear. That meant we were using parachutes designed for much bigger men and much heavier loads.
Although I wasn’t paid to ask why (I was paid to Do), I figured that someone, probably a Department of Defense scientist/geek working on his thesis and/or government contract, needed the data. And of course, we volunteered for the two weeks of “basket leave (free vacation)” and additional “Experimental/Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay” upon mission completion.
Besides, what could happen?
We were all well-versed in jumping. We all wore the gaudy, golden “Jump Wings” on our uniforms. The Jump Wings and shiny, silver “Dive Bubble” (the Navy SCUBA Diver pin worn above the wings) proclaimed to all that we were loony enough to be free-fall qualified and macho/horny enough to be Navy Diver certified.
And of course, in our minds, we (my team mates, fellow connoisseurs of beer, PT – physical training, women, and out-of-the ordinary adventures) were all crazy, little f*ckers – a batch of brown escapees from the local Mental Ward.
In short, multiple incarnations of Superman.
Oftentimes, hushed words were spoken from onlookers when one of us was seen in our uniforms.
I never got used to all the attention. In fact, all the hoo-hah about divers, jumpers, and shooters usually made me feel uncomfortable. When someone asked too many probing questions, I would find an excuse to quickly leave.
Perfectly happy doing my job out of the limelight, I performed my duties as professionally and quietly as possible. Yup, being “invisible” was just fine with me.
It’s always the shiny, “special” things (or people) that become targets first.
To my knowledge, there is only one photo of me in my “work clothes and green/brown make-up” in existence. It (with other documents and computer files) is in the custody of a very trusted friend; safely tucked away in an old wooden desk, in an old Asian village home, in an old and remote Asian Province. And there it will stay until enough time has passed and I don’t need “insurance” anymore.
All smart people have insurance.
Nuff said about that.
– Wannabes and Groupies –
Most of the other “normal, honorable, respectable” soldiers envied the lifestyle I and my men lived everyday.
To them, we were all Desperados.
It was a well-known fact that we enjoyed more p*ssy, more money, and more excitement than the usual serviceman. On top of that, we wore our uniforms less frequently and enjoyed more individual freedom on the job.
Those men who “look, want, but can’t” are affectionately called “Wannabes.”
And the women, oh the women.
There were two types of “Groupie Women.” The first type, the Thrill Seekers, got off by having sex with us “dangerous, young studs.” The other type, the Gold Digger, was looking for “security” (meaning, the money and security left by a deceased serviceman spouse).
If a woman thought “we were what we were,” the usual response followed: Instant Flirting. Her pupils would enlarge, she’d heave whatever chest she had, she’d fiddle with her hair, smile, and lick her lips. You could almost read her mind. She wanted to sample the athletic, wiry, six-packed, muscular bodies we all possessed.
Our hardbodies coupled with our permanent, devilish, sh*t-eating grins that seemed to make all of us look half our ages were most irresistible to the overtly (and covertly) available members of the opposite sex.
Gold Diggers are available around the globe and the U.S. was no exception. Everyone knew of the SGLI (the soldier’s life insurance) and Death Gratuity Benefits extended to the dead soldier’s family/beneficiaries.
Since people like me and my men tended to die from mysterious “Training Injuries” much more often than the normal guy riding a desk job, we were all that more attractive to the “long-range minded women.”
It’s “The Golden Rule.”
Same-same around the world, I guess. Those with the Gold/Money (or the promise of it) rule!
“Don’t mess with THEM. They’d rather kill than f*ck!,” one young sailor said to another while I was standing in line at the Base’s Mini-Mart.
On the very few occasions that I went shopping in my uniform, when I would walk toward a crowd of shoppers, the reaction was like the parting of the Red Sea.
It was weird.
If you saw me in person and in civilian clothes, you’d probably think I was someone’s meek, Asian driver or cook. But put a uniform on me, replete with those two “itty-bitty” pins, and I’m magically transformed into some mysterious, dark-hearted assassin?
The word assassin brings a wry smile to my face. You see, its root comes from the word “Hassassin” – meaning, followers/users of hashish.
Well, actually, many stories revolve around the word “assassin.”
Some references reinforce the etymology of “assassin” from “hassassin;” while others refute it, saying that:
- The Koran and the creator of the Hassassins group staunchly opposed all intoxicating chemicals (e.g., alcohol, hashish, etc.).
- Trained killers require disciplined training, and therefore; could not have been drug addicts.
- Hashish in the form of a “potion” (that is, liquid form) and mentioned below in the famous “Marco Polo” accounts of the assassins and their leader is not the normal form of ingestion.
But let me include two other stories.
And they both involve killers and hashish.
The first story, popularized by Marco Polo, tells of the “Old Man of the mountain” (believed to be Hasan-i-Sabbah, leader of the Nizari Ismaili militant group) using a “potion” of hashish as a recruiting tool.
Supposedly, he drugged prospective recruits and brought them to a “Paradise” that he’d setup in a secret, secluded compound. Once there, the recruits were provided anything and everything they desired (wine, women, song, etc.). Soon after, they were drugged again and brought back before the Leader.
He [the Leader] promised them a trip to Paradise again if they served him (or died in his service). Either way, if they completed their service, they (or their souls) were guaranteed a return to Paradise.
The second story involves enemies of the Crusaders.
During the Crusades, a group of small, but deadly armies meandered through the lands to defend the populace from the Christian Marauders (Crusaders).
Their ruthlessness and efficiency with which they dealt out death became legendary. After each successful defense (killing fest), these men would then perform their routine, celebratory ritual – a party and trance induced by heavy hashish use.
They soon became known as “Hassassins.” Over time, the word changed into “assassin.”
When I was in Laos, I often wondered if the cute purveyors (and tourists/ buyers) of those innocent looking, little, dark-brown-to-black cubes knew the hashish-“assassin” word connection?
– Volunteering for Extra Pay –
I was always pretty “open-minded” about extra pay. What the Hell, I got’ta work anyway, right? Why not get a little extra, for just a little extra misery.
One time I volunteered for Experimental Pay that involved me doing a cold-weather mission “while wearing a core body temperature data collection device.”
The data was needed to engineer better anti-exposure gear for missions where hypothermia was a real danger; and also to design nutritionally sound, cold-weather MRE’s (meals, ready to eat) individualized to the size and activity of each operator.
In reality, the “…while wearing a core body temperature data collection device” was the official way of saying that I and my whole team were doing our jobs in a very cold region WITH RECTAL THERMOMETERS FIRMLY LODGED UP OUR BUTTS AND ANCHORED THERE BY AN INFLATABLE BULB AT THE END OF EACH PROBE!
Needless to say, it was a hassle to take a dump – and rather painful if you forgot to deflate the bulb!
Another time, when the military was designing new ejection seat trainers for their jet pilots, I volunteered for ejection seat training duty. In the old days, the trainers used live charges instead of pneumatic propulsion and hydraulic breaks. I “shrunk” a centimeter or two (because of spinal disc compression), but later regained my full, manly height of 5’ 5” a few months later.
One more Extra-Pay Duty story?
A study was ordered to measure the effects of full body armor (Kevlar) in the event of emergency egress from a downed helicopter. I got first dibs on this assignment because…well, mainly because no one else volunteered!
That should’ve been a sign.
Anyway, I strapped into the 9D5 NAWSTP (Naval Aviation Water Survival Training Program) helicopter emergency multi-egress/crash simulator.
The simulator resembles a giant oil drum. The inside “cabin” is about the size of the cabin of a troop transport helo. It is suspended above a small, training tank (pool) by thick, steel cables. When the operator/engineer is prompted, he releases tension on the supporting cables and the device slams into the water (just like a real helo would during an emergency crash landing into the ocean). Then, as all top-heavy helicopters do, the device begins to turn upside down.
I knew/taught all the correct egress procedures.
I remained strapped into the seat. I took a nice, long breath before the water level reached my mouth and nose. I kept a little internal air pressure in my nose to keep the water from filling up my sinuses.
(It’s always amusing to me how a huge Marine can morph into a panicky, little baby when confronted with an underwater emergency – simulated or not. The disorientation and water up the nose causes many rough and tumble, macho, overly muscled Marines to panic, unbuckle too early, and get trapped in the trainer.
I think the only other thing that produces more sheer terror in these finely tuned, mindless killing machines [translated: first-wave, canon fodder] is the sight of an immunization needle.
I sh*t you not! I’ve had many a monster Marine pass out when I waved a needle and syringe in front of him!
It’s hilarious and not really a problem.
My only concern is that the big boy doesn’t hurt himself with his fall to the ground, slump into the chair, or the instant, involuntary prone position on the gurney. After a nice chuckle, I just inject the passed out Marine with the originally prescribed medication, break an ammonium nitrate ampule under his nose, and tell the now awake killer that the brain surgery/castration/rectal exam is over and done with – no problem.)
Back to the helo crash simulation.
Inverted, I waited for all violent motion to stop. I took a handhold of the seat beside me and reached for my buckle. It was stuck/jammed. No worries. I’d taught this to my survival students and done this procedure thousands of times. I hit the locking mechanism with my fist, making sure it was fully locked down; then tried to open the buckle again. It opened. Cool.
But the normal smooth, underwater weightlessness I’d experienced in the past was replaced with a vicious surge to the surface. Like a bug on a car’s windshield, I was plastered on the upside down deck of the simulator.
“Imagine That.” Kevlar floats!
The body armor was so buoyant that I was stuck, upside down on the deck of the 9D5. Even worse, the rest of the gear I had on was getting snagged on everything in my egress path. Cargo hooks, helo frame, and seats proved to be just one more thing to disentangle myself from before I could leave the simulator.
I’m not sure how long I’d been holding my breath. Activity and emotional state can severely cut your breath holding time.
Outside the trainer, the safety diver, a buddy of mine, motioned the “need assistance” signal.
I smiled and waived him off.
Finally, I said “f*ck it,” grabbed my HEEDs (helicopter emergency egress device – a small SCUBA bottle the size of a large café-latte at Starbucks), purged the mini-regulator of water, and took a breath of compressed air.
This was always a last resort because ascent to the surface and breathing had to be controlled afterwards. On a breath hold, one could rule out the dangers of DCS (decompression sickness) and AGE (arterial gas embolism – the more serious condition when a bubble travels through the blood vessels and lodges in some rather inconvenient places; namely the heart or brain).
Oh well, it was going to be a longer day than I expected.
Without the immediate need for air, I methodically doffed the Kevlar vest, and hooked it around my arm. I looked at my buddy and waived my middle finger at the Kevlar vest.
My buddy took out his regulator, smiled, and stuck his thumb in his mouth. Then he simulated poking himself in the ass with it. The meaning was obvious: F*ck me! I’m never wearing Kevlar in a helicopter flying over the water!
And neither will I.
– A Bad Day at work –
Back to the situation at hand: “Big Army Parachute, Not-So-Big Man.”
I knew it was going to be a bad day when the archaic body harness of the big parachute and opening shock made me feel like I was being split in half – from the crotch up!
After beating on my numbed legs, I immediately checked my canopy and saw the next hint of my bad day.
Reflexively, I said out loud, “Imagine That” (my personal “bleeding down” catch-phrase).
For those of you who haven’t been indoctrinated into the wonderful world of hazardous duty, let me cue you in. Almost all operators have a “bleeding down or releasing pressure,” personal catch-phrase they say to themselves to instantly calm down.
These catch-phrases serve a vital purpose. They put you into a mindset that’s conducive to survival, especially when you’re “having a bad day at work.”
- Delete damaging/time-consuming emotions from your current scenario.
- Help you mentally step out of a hazardous/time-sensitive situation to facilitate quick – often life-saving – decisions objectively (as an observer, not a participant).
- Relax you (even make you laugh) as you marvel at the absurdity of life
Again, I said, “Imagine That.”
Above my head, instead of a heavenly full, round canopy, I saw what resembled a huge, used condom! Either a line-over or static electricity was preventing air from inflating my chute.
I was oscillating wildly.
All my attempts to inflate the main chute proved unsuccessful. I spread the main shoulder risers – nothing. I did a pull-up and climbed up on one riser and let go – hoping that the popping, spring action of my bodyweight would let some air enter the canopy. No joy. I looked for the usual 4-line release system (a way of controlling/steering a parachute by releasing four lines at the rear of the canopy), but then remembered that this was an old army chute with no such capabilities.
I pondered whether I should try and find the possible line-over and start cutting lines (one by one) with my hooked shroud line cutter.
By experience, I could “feel” that I had not regained terminal velocity (about 147 mph)…yet. It was probably because of the minor friction caused by the “Used Rubber” flailing above me. Physicists will tell you that one square yard will decrease your free-fall momentum by up to 20 per cent.
But a quick glance at the on-rushing ground (perception of ground color begins around the 10,000 to 12,000 foot ceiling) and verification with my wrist altimeter told me that I really didn’t have much time for playing Sherlock Holmes/Brain Surgeon with any offending shroud lines.
Damn, I hate it when this happens…
[Continued in “Imagine That…(3) – Medical Turf Wars and Angels of Mercy Revisited.”]
Your friend in this Intrepid Journey called Life,
Carl “J.C.” Pantejo
I am rushed for time today, hence no comments. Sorry!