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Pretty Girls and Blackhawks

Sam spent some time as the on-island training NCO, and  this can be a shit job unless you happen to be a slightly
devious wheeler dealer. The job meant that he was responsible for arranging the resources, ranges and support
required by any of our teams who were training on Oki. It was difficult to do any training on Oki because the
Okinawans were not happy about having “Occupying” troops on their 13 mile wide island. The village of Yomitan
where Torii Station, our post, is located had a communist mayor. Whenever we made a parachute jump on our
drop zone in Yomitan the communist party would pay their members to come to the DZ and protest us. They had
Green Beret baby killers go home leaflets, truly beautiful banners, dragons, drums, the headbands, it was
awesome. They would set up on the roads surrounding the DZ, which was actually covered with sugar cane, and
the Japanese riot police, the guys with the samurai gear carrying big sticks, would set up opposite them. The
protesters would chant and blow whistles and beat their drums, and the cops mostly stood impassively like a wall
of old school whoop ass waiting for something to whack. And every once in a while one of the protesters would
get religion and rush the samurai. The result was consistently painful and swift for the earnest idealists. When we
actually jumped and were under canopy they would shine mirrors up at our eyes and ring bells. All in all it was
more theater than danger and that was their intention all along.

Air assets were a vital resource and Sam took his control over them as a hunting license. Any use of aircraft,
either helicopters or airplanes, was coordinated by him. He constantly got more birds for everyone, especially
him, to play with. Now this is a valuable skill and it gave him a lot of freedom of maneuver which he consistently
managed to exceed. One of the most memorable involved the personal Blackhawk helicopter belonging to a 3
star General from mainland Japan. The bird was on Oki since the General was there for a week. While there it
was to be used to conduct VIP tours and for rappel training for our headquarter troops. Sam was responsible for
both of these and he gave many helo tours of Okinawa to worthy VIPs. It was the rappel training that led to all the

Okinawa is a fairly isolated place and in our circles beautiful women were scarce. Our club was known as the Gay
Men’s Club, need I say more. So when the gym on Torii Station which was a brand new complex with tremendous
fitness facilities, acquired a knockout Fitness Coordinator interest ran high. She was a lovely brunette from
Indiana and the apple in several hundred Green Beret eyes. At the time Sam looked no more than 12 years old,
his peach fuzz having been dismissed by CSM Pennington as non-existent. It caused tremendous amazement and
considerable dismay when Sam became the apple in her eye. Now as mentioned in the opening, Sam arrived in
the throes of dismay due to the demise of his marriage to a hairy Alaskan bitch that saved him in a blizzard or
something. At least that’s the only reason I could see for marryin’ her. Since that time we had resurrected him,
taught him rudimentary social skills, and showed him how to navigate amongst the sharks of our social circle. He
out-smoothed all the other “Hi there my name is Max” types who were circling and got the girl.

Once they were firmly established as a couple, he did his usual, which involves exceeding his authority and often
common sense. He started by taking her, a civilian, up on our 60 foot rappel tower, which he was responsible for,
and teaching her how to rappel. This wasn’t even his first rappel tower related adventure. Previously we were
conducting rappel training for a Marine Corps unit and the first part involves a safety briefing and a demonstration
of the different methods of rappelling. Now Sam had already become a serious skydiving junkie and he relished
every little second of freefall he could find. One of the rappel methods we demonstrate is Australian (head first)
off a helicopter skid mounted on the tower. Since there is nothing below the skid for 60 feet, the opportunity exists
to take some slack in the rope so you fall for that length before you brake to slow your descent. It looks
spectacular as you exit off the skid in the same position as a skydiver for the length of the slack and then you
brake, the rope stretches and you slide gracefully to the ground. The problem was for Sam if 5 feet of slack is
good 15 feet would be excellent. Now he had done plenty of these 15 foot slack rappels before but today 20 feet
seemed like the number.

Now in his mind taking the extra 5 feet would simply mean he would spend 5 feet less sliding down the rope on the
bottom part which is not the cool part, the free fall is. He failed to understand that those extra 5 feet were 5 feet
more acceleration before he began to brake. I was on the ground as his belay man and while not shirking my
responsibility, was not as vigilant as I could have been because Sammy was just so fuckin’ good he always hit it. I
also didn’t know he took the extra 5 feet which would have had me move 5 feet closer.

Superman poises on the skid with 20 feet of slack coiled next to him, I am on the ground waiting. He announces to
the crowd that this is an Australian slack rappel and only highly trained expert morons like him should attempt it.
At least that’s what I heard. He launches beautifully, bringing to mind that one time Wile E. Coyote in his bat suit is
flying and it’s working and then…. the wall. Sam’s wall was when his brake hand lost the rope and he now had no
way to slow down. In this situation the belay man’s job is to pull the rope taut which will stop him even if he
completely lets go. Since he had 5 more feet of slack and I wasn’t expecting him to fuck up so perfectly, I was
slightly startled and Sam later said when he looked down all he saw was an eye the size of my head and my
mouth open to my waist. There was no way to pull the rope taut behind my back and lean against it because there
was still 5 feet more slack swinging. So I turned and took two steps before diving as far as possible with the rope
over my shoulder. Sam was head down and heading straight toward Earth like a human lawn dart. The rope was
screaming under his arm and his only chance to slow down was to squeeze it against his side. He did and the
rope burned right through his uniform and gouged a half inch deep stripe in his side. His flesh for friction trade
and my dive combined to stop him short of six feet under and with rope stretch he swung to a stop a foot or two
from the ground and stuck the landing, He walked to the end of the rope and with his arm tight against his side
went directly in the building and ripped his shirt off. As he abruptly departed I watched our audience of Marines
who just saw what looked to them like a James Bond quality stunt and told them they would not be doing any slack
rappels as they were not highly trained expert morons like SSG Thistle.

Nothing that interesting happened while we were teaching Sam’s girlfriend to rappel. She was an athlete and it’s
not very hard to do, certain slack-related stunts excepted, so Sam declared her air assault qualified. It was now
time to teach the headquarters troopies a more interesting use for the General’s chopper than luxury tours for
lard asses. Sam figured since things went so well on the rappel tower that putting a civilian in a military aircraft,
tying a string to her and chucking her out of it should be a breeze. That day I was taking pictures and didn’t have
any responsibilities other than documenting the potential destruction, so I had a front row seat. Sam put her in
someone’s uniform and had her put all her hair up under a Kevlar helmet. Then he just added her to our class of
HQ troops and spent the afternoon tossing her and the rest of them out of the helo. All went extremely well and a
wonderful time was had by one and all including the pilots who thought it was very cool that there was a cute
civilian rappelling from their bird. They thought it was so cool that they mentioned it when they were at the Officers
club with the General’s aide who mentioned it to the General and that was too many up-tight anal-retentive
officers for any good to come of it.

LTC Boyatt, our Commander, was not an overly scary person, and wore glasses but he had a serious glare. I had
the misfortune of standing in his office as he delivered a world-class, paint peeling ass chewing to a poor
unfortunate soul. It started slowly as questions and answers established not just guilt but the aggravating factor of
blatant stupidity. Then it reached a boil and LTC Boyatt leaned forward with his elbows on his desk, pulled his
glasses down, closed his eyes and rubbed his brow with his fingers and you could feel the pain and suffering that
having to deal with this idiot and his idiocy was causing him and you could sense that that pain and suffering was
about to boomerang. It did and it was magnificent. It was not as funny but every bit as intense as the opening of
Full Metal Jacket. I told Sam about this and said you could tell when it was going to blow because he pulled his
glasses down and massaged the pain. Several days had passed since the fun and games on the Blackhawk and
Sam had no concerns, as a matter of fact he had done an excellent job on a mission in Korea and when the
message came for he, and his boss and his boss’s boss to come to the Commander’s office they all figured it was
an impact award for that. Sammy, MSG Craig Nichols, and MAJ Craig Hasleton filed into LTC Boyatt’s office and
stood at attention waiting for someone to announce “Attention to Orders, The Sec. of the Army awards the
Meritorious Service Medal to SSG Samuel Langhorne Thistle.” Instead LTC Boyatt leaned forward on his desk,
pulled his glasses down, and massaged the pain caused when a 3 star general calls to ask him if 1st Group
always took unauthorized civilians rappelling in military aircraft. Sam said he knew at that instant he was dead.
The ass chewing was properly epic but after they all filed out and walked back to their office Sam’s punishment
took the well deserved effect of some “wall to wall counseling” as Nick and MAJ Hasleton kicked the crap out of
him until they tired. Nick told him “Fuckin’ counseling statement wouldn’t have done you any good anyway. You
keep your pussy away from military aircraft or I will throw you in the fucking ocean.”