Saturday, September 11, 2010

Judy's In The Air Force Now! Bivouac at Shepperd AFB 1968, Part #6

Bivouac duty Shepperd AFB 1968, after the second day. I wrote on 
the back of this picture that I was "exhausted".

You can read the series by clicking on Air Force under Archives.. The first part of the series
is Here, one of my favorites is Here

Before we could graduate from Tech school and be assigned to a permanent party location, we had to do Bivouac duty. Now you ask, what is Bivouac duty and I'm going to post the dictionary definition, which is close to the actual event, military camp or bivouac is a semi-permanent facility for the lodging of an army or other military branch. Camps are erected when a military force travels away from a major installation or fort during training or operations, and often have the form of large campsites. In my case, think of the TV show "MASH". I watched it and still watch the reruns because there are scenes in it that remind me so much of my time in the Air Force. 

My Tech school was medical training, how to work in military hospitals or if in war, on the field. We had two Bivouac events, one to learn how to triage(determine their injuries, as fatal, life threatening, or minor and can wait) people in case of a civilian catastrophe, such as a plane crash or bus accident and the last one was if we were out on the field during a war.  The last one left a bigger impression as it went on for almost a week. Usually during the exercise it was required to spend whole day and night in tents on location, for some reason, which I don't remember, we only went during the daytime and returned back to our rooms at night.  I do remember is was cold, as you can see from the windburn on my face in the above picture. And from the way we're standing around the campfire in the picture below.

This is what I wrote on the back of the picture-"Here we are gathered around the campfire, happily eating our C-Ration. It was cold while we were out there. Thankfully, they let us heat our C-rations at least at one meal a day. They didn't taste too bad either. The cocoa and coffee was almost better than that at the chow hall."

If my memory serves me correctly, we marched out to the bivouac area before daybreak, fixed a fire and ate a breakfast from the box of C-rations we were issued .  Most of the day was spent learning how to carry wounded patients on stretchers across swinging bridges, with smoke bombs going off to represent artillery.  Lying on our backs crawling under wires with cans loaded with rocks and carrying a rifle.  This represented crawling under trip wires that were attached to landmines or some other form of destruction. If we accidentally made a can of rocks sound off, which meant, in real life we had tripped the wire and were blown up, we had to start all over again to gain the experience of surviving.  We pulled ourselves over walls and ran, it seemed, forever before we arrived at our destination.  There were four of us in a team, well actually five, usually four women and one man, because each of us, at some point, played the part of a patient on a stretcher.  I think the hardest task was carrying a man on a stretcher across the terrain, even across swinging bridges, that an officer put into motion just before we got there.  Thankfully, my team didn't fall off the bridge into water. Though some did! As you can see from my picture above, it was very exhausting.  I think about how bad it really would have been if we had to have spent the night sleeping on cots, with the wind flapping the tents, freezing cold air blowing through, and us sleeping in our coats and shoes.  The point, aside from learning how to be a team, was to realize what people went through during a war.  It was a hard duty.  All of us appreciated what the people serving in Viet Nam was going through, except theirs was heat and rain, rather than the cold. The picture we were getting was just a small taste as to what really happened over there or even in the Korean conflict, or World War I & II. And we did learn to work as a team.

At the end of each days exercise, we marched back to our classroom for more classes and to go over the day. One day as we marched back, while we were crossing a bridge, there was a skunk hiding underneath.  It was so startled it sprayed and hit one of the men.  You don't know what an odor is until you're in a warm classroom of wet wool coats drying from the heat, body odor from the exercise and of course, that of skunk!  

Yet, I have fond memories from those days. Once the bivouac exercises were concluded, we were given our permanent party assignments.  Mine turned out to be the hospital at Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your service to our country! A few of my sons are considering the military - I will be so stinkin' proud of them if they do - skunk or no skunk! Looking forward to more of these stories!

Judy Harper said...

Thanks, blue!

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

J!3 ~
It sounds more relaxing and less chaotic than were a lot of parties I attended in my youth. :o)

And, oh, M*A*S*H. I remember it well! (Well, some of it I remember well anyway.)

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Encore Bride said...

Loved hearing your story, I know you won't be surprised to find that we still use the same terminology and we still do the same exercises (I'm in the Army though). It's great to hear stories from women that served before me. Thank you!!!

Found you via SITS!

Clarissa Draper said...

Cool. It's like hard-core camping. What wonderful photos you have. Great post.


Agnes said...

So interesting Judy -- loving this air force series. And again, really really like the photos :-)