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Spanky & The Shark

Another Oki character who was in the class with us was “Spanky”  of moron kiting fame. When we began Zodiac
training our six man boat crew included Herbie, Tom Cruise (TC), Spanky,  Lowder and an Air Force weasel. We
had Zodiacs and 55hp motors with shaft extensions. One of the first things we had to do is find the actual speed of
the boat when loaded with us and all our gear. The whole class did this and for whatever reason our boat was much
faster, at least 5-6 mph faster than anyone. This was a source of pride and boastfulness for our crew and we
named our boat Miss Budweiser and informed everyone else we would finish all transits first. That remained
basically true and we progressed to a more advanced training event where we deflated the boats and put a CO2
inflation system in them and rolled them up into bundles. This allowed us to load them on Special Ops Blackhawks
from Task Force 160 and fly to some tiny little key and then make a long transit with several intermediate stops
back to Key West.

The Miss Bud crew was pumped and of course we had to be the first back to maintain our dominance of the
weaklings and their puny under-powered boats. Before we could get in our speed boat we got a taste of real speed
as the Task Force pilots showed us the waters around Key West at 200 mph, ten feet above the water. We were
sitting in the doors, legs dangling in the breeze with a completely unnecessary strap across our legs since the
centrifugal force of this water level E-ticket ride made it impossible to move anyway. We slalomed our way through
tiny, mangrove-covered keys looking at sharks lollygagging in the currents between the islands. There were many
more sharks than we would have guessed and unfortunately this got Spanky thinking. The bird dropped us on
some tiny speck and we unrolled the boat and hit the inflation system. The boat filled right up and we put the roll
out rubber floor in it and loaded our gear. Since we had to roll the boat up we didn’t have the usual rigid aluminum
floor so the boat was softer on the bottom and a little slower. We put the boat in the shallow water and got ready to
walk it deeper before we got in.

We were wearing UDT shorts, dive boots, BDU shirts, and drive-on rags, cool rays, web gear, rubber M16s, and
dive knifes, the standard ensemble for a water guru. As we pushed the boat out we could tell it was less than knee
high for several hundred meters. That blew because it delayed our high speed joy ride back to Key West, but as we
were whining about the delay Spanky said “Holy shit! Look up there. That’s a fuckin’ dorsal fin. There’s a fucking
shark right up there!” it only took a look to confirm that there was definitely a dorsal fin about 75 meters dead
ahead. To me this meant that the water was definitely deep enough and we should get into the boat. Spanky came
to a completely different conclusion. “Think about how fuckin’ cool it would be if we not only cruised in first but we
had a shark tied to the front of the boat like a deer on a pickup?” “Jesus Christ Spanky are you fucking crazy? We
are wearing dive boots and shorts and you want to go shark wrestling? No fuckin’ way” I declared as I climbed in the
boat. The rest of them decided to get in too, but that didn’t stop the scheming. “Cmon man lets at least try. He can’t
be that big if he’s in water this shallow.” Spanky assured. This led to a scientific discussion of overall shark size
compared to dorsal fin size and relative sponginess of the bottom and tips of icebergs vs. the part under the water.
The final definitive decision was that the shark couldn’t be that big or it wouldn’t be this shallow.

By now Spanky had enlisted TC and they were busy developing the rubber M16 field expedient shark poking
device. This was simply a rubber weapon with a dive knife 100 mile an hour taped to the end. At this point we had
passed the point where common sense stops you from attacking a shark while riding in a rubber boat. TC started
the motor and Mr. Shark still sat there. Spanky, being lead shark hunter called for him to circle around behind the
shark so we had him trapped against the shore of the little inlet we were in. At this point I know I was telling them
just exactly how stupid this was and if they poke a hole in the boat and I was gonna kick their asses and everything
else I could think of, but we were committed. TC circled behind the shark and Spanky got as far out over the bow as
he could lean and had Herbie sit on his legs. TC took a medium speed approach and Spanky prepared to spear his
prey, as we got about 20 feet away the shark, who must have been thinking “These idiots are actually going to run
me over in a rubber boat. I wonder what moron tastes like?” did one of those shark S-turn things they do when they
want to move very fast and came up out of the mud he was hunkered down in. He took off at an angle across our
bow to the left and it was obvious that the scientific calculations of overall shark length based on dorsal fin
exposure were way off, this sucker was at least 8-10 ft. long. Spanky didn’t care and signaled so TC obligingly cut
the boat left at which time the shark took another left and as TC made to follow the shark broke hard right and we
literally “jumped the shark”. Fonzie can kiss my ass with that sissy water ski jump over a shark in a tank. We drove
right over his back in a rubber boat and felt the bump right through the soft floor. The shark was heading for open
water now but the Miss Bud crew was far from finished and the shark had at least one hundred shallow meters to
cover before he was safe from life on the wall of a team room. TC gunned the engine and we were kicking up all
kinds of muck as we chased Jaws. We got close enough that Spanky raised up and chucked his sharksticker, but it
flopped harmlessly into the water and the shark gave us one flip of the tail before heading back to the deep water
to tell his friends about the boat load of morons he just ran into. We returned to the harbor and since no one else,
of course, was back yet we had a little time. We flipped Miss Bud over and sure as shit there was a nice slightly
sharkish scratch diagonally across the bottom.

Since infil by helicopter is not only fun, but involves very little suffering it was not the first choice of the Nazis. They
much preferred the nasty old LSTs and other flat-bottomed WWII relics the Navy had there in Key West. These are
essentially the same things Macarthur came walking off to “return” to the Philippines. They are excellent platforms if
you have 40 waterborne warrior wannabes, their boats and their gear and you want to take them 20-30 miles out
into the ocean and then dump them over the side. There was also the added side benefit that the pounding and
rocking a bigass, flat-bottomed boat does while plowing through the swells caused considerable amounts of
seasickness. We had scopolamine ear patches that worked fine for most people but unfortunately for Spanky he
was not one of them. He started turning into Kermit the Frog about halfway out to our drop off point except he was
definitely singing “It isn’t easy being green” right over the side of the boat. Since the boat is essentially a giant shoe
box with a diesel engine and the sides are about 15 feet high it is a fair task just to climb up the side to get to the
edge. Spanky had wedged himself in the back corner of the boat and had a fairly regular schedule of curling in a
ball for 5 minutes and then yacking over the side for 5 minutes. Fortunately for him this was a Zodiac transit not a
kayak ride because there is no way he could have paddled anything.

As we got close to the drop off point we started checking our gear and our nav plan before picking the boat up off
the floor and putting it over the side with the hydraulic arm on the back of the LST. Spanky was still hurling off the
side of the boat so we had taken care of his gear and fortunately for him the arm was right next to his perch so he
didn’t have far to move. We had the boat over the side and were lowering it the 15-18 feet down to the water when
one of the Nazis had a rare moment of something between compassion and job preservation and asked us if
Spanky was going to be OK to make the Zodiac transit because if not he could stay on the LST while they dropped
off the other teams and then ride it back in. I’m certain Spanky heard him and decided since the LST was causing
him this incredible distress then there was no way he was staying on it a second longer than he had to. As we
discussed his fate Spanky launched his carcass into the Zodiac crashing like a sack of dung on the aluminum floor
15 feet down. “I guess that settles that” I informed the not really all that sympathetic Nazi medic. The rest of the Miss
Bud crew took the less dramatic but safer cargo net route down the side of the LST and into the Zodiac. While
Spanky may have made it to the boat it was obvious as we motored away that the flight into the Miss Bud had been
his last effort and he was cargo for the rest of our trip.

The rest of us are not exactly nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize but we have a bit more compassion than the
average WIC instructor so we had to decide exactly how screwed up Spanky was. The transit we had in front of us
was almost 40 nautical miles and would be a tough ride in the open ocean no matter what. The dilemma lay in the
fact that the transit was 3 legs of navigation tests to see if we could locate certain buoys and small points and it led
away from Key West before eventually doubling back. If we blew off the training and headed straight back to Key
West it was only about 20 nautical miles, but then we would not finish first and we would lose our lead in the top
boat crew competition. That was unacceptable to all of us so after consultation with Spanky, who was now curled in
the fetal position in the back of the boat by the fuel bladders and whose sole addition to the conversation was
“Leave me the fuck alone!” we decided to press on. Seasickness is not fatal and we knew he wasn’t going to die,
but we had 4 hours or more of bumpy cruising to do before we were through. Don’t confuse the fact that we are in
Key West, riding in a boat with any boating related situation you have been in, unless you had 6 people packed into
a 14 foot rubber boat that already held 6 giant rucksacks full of gear. 4 fuel bladders filled with gas oil mix, rubber
rifles, dive fins, web gear, paddles, radios, navigation table, food and water, and you were somehow dumb enough
to be running around full throttle in the 10-15 foot swells about halfway between Key West and Cuba. If you have,
all I can say is “Damn you’re dumb!”

Since the faster we went the sooner we got back, we traveled as fast as possible. This meant straddling that fine
line between top speed the boat can run and maximum amount of pounding the crew can take. The bad thing is
that the driver’s spot takes the least pounding of anyone so he is least able to estimate how much it sucks for the
unlucky bastards up in the front . The noise is so loud he can’t hear the screams of “Slow the fuck down TC you
asshole. Christ you’re killin’ us.” TC took his duties as driver very seriously and had a very Top Gun approach to
piloting the Miss Bud. This meant that he considered it his job to get us where we were going as fast as the laws of
mechanics and physics allowed. Any whining from the passengers about comfort did not fall into either of those
categories so it wouldn’t have mattered if he could hear us.

Like his namesake TC was a good looking guy but being a Ranger meant having a shaved side “high and tight”
haircut and no mustache. This was killing the GQ stud stuck inside of TC but since he was at a Special Forces
school for six weeks there was no one to enforce those standards and the instructors, while definitely Nazis were all
Army SF or Navy SEALs and they all looked more like surfers than soldiers. The only attempted standardization
came from another Ranger from Regimental Recon, which is a Headquarters element and like most organizations,
the closer you get to the flag pole the larger the percentage of ass-kissing boot-lickers. SSG Jagoff walked into the
bathroom the second week of class while Todd Lowder was trimming his very luxurious mustache and TC shaved
his face clean next to him “Man I wish I could have a fuckin’ mustache” TC lamented. “Hell I’m even gonna need to
tighten up my haircut in a couple of days.” “Dude” I interjected “This is the perfect place to grow a mustache and
who the fuck is going to say anything about your fucking hair? Not the Nazis. They all look like surfers or SEALs,
same fucking thing. Anyway why would you cut your hair? I don’t see any Ranger first sergeants lurking in the
bushes.” As TC pondered the wisdom of this Jagoff reminded him “Excuse me sergeant but if you fail to maintain
proper Ranger grooming standards I would be obligated to inform your first sergeant.”  This resulted in a rousing
chorus of “Fuck You”s from all in earshot. “Motherfucker if you rat TC out, not only will I knee you in the neck (thank
you Doug Jones), but I will have Buckethead crush all the evil thoughts out of your skull.” I informed the prospective
asshole. “Dude that goes against all that is sacred and proper in the special operations community. The payback
for all the shit you eat in Ranger Batt or the Recon Marines is that when you come to play with the mighty Green
Berets you get to play by our rules. That means TC gets to go all GQ for 6 weeks and you aren’t gonna say a
fucking thing. Right?”  Jagoff, like all world-class ass-kissers knew when his shit was weak and agreed. The payoff
for us was a couple of weeks later when TC was brushing his hair and he exclaimed” It moves when I brush it dude,
it actually fucking moves. I could stay here all night”

Back in the boat TC, with a way out of regulation semi-handlebar mustache, was doing his best to pound us to
death. We hit one of our waypoints which was a tiny key with a small lighthouse on it. We beached the boat and
hauled Spanky out and beached him too. It was about 75 degrees and sunny but he was shivering and white as the
crowd at a Republican Convention. He had a Gore-Tex jacket on but claimed he was freezing to death so we dug
out his poly-pro long underwear and put it on him. Then we tried to get some liquid back in him but Gatorade go in.
Gatorade come back out. We put his jacket back on him and tucked him back into his little corner with the fuel and
got back on the water. It was fairly ugly couple of hours more but in the end we got back with our drowned rat
looking teammate and even expanded our commanding lead in the boat crew competition.