There were three shifts that accommodated the company. These were the same as the state side meals. The food that was served was in the typical army fashion and tasted the best that the cooks could make it. At times there were points when a person getting off night shift could get a free meal. This usually took some bribing or a joint passed in total secrecy. This meant going outside and lighting up before you ate.
The life in the camp itself was still to be learned and adjusted with in the next period of time. There were Fuck en New Guys and old timers in the area. This you could notice by the mud caked on the boots or that look in their eyes. The look seemed to jump out at you the minute you stared at them. From the guys that had been there awhile, you just talked to and rapped. Myself, I felt that there was a great adventure to be unfolding within my life. There seemed to be that carnival fantasy, that crept up on you. Looking down, I could see a reflection of sunlight coming off the new boots. There was a solemness about the act itself. There seemed to be a new reflection of me as a soldier in the United States Army. Here I was ten thousand miles away from the life that I had once knew.
Then one on the new guys that I had come into the company with came past my area. He was headed out the back door, with a shit eating grin on his face. There was that look of a new, yet old found discovery that seemed to radiate. He said,"that he was going out back to take a shit in the out house". Then he was going to proceed down to the operations after the shit. I asked him to stop by after he was done and I would go with him.
Toward the back of the barracks there were two out houses, in typical style of the Vietnamese structure. The slotted boards were half way up the sides and the screen went the rest of the way up to the beginning of the roof. In the back was a trap door that was used to remove the shit and waste.
At this point my curiosity got the best of me. I walked out the back door and proceeded toward the out houses. I figured that I might as well look at the place of my daily routine every day. As I proceeded closer the faint smell became more pronounced to my olfactory conception. There was a ludicrous air about the whole event. Opening the door of one of the out houses there was two wooded seats, that had not been painted since there building. Looking down through the holes I could see the piled shit, mixed with urine and rolled toilet paper. For sure there was no plumbing in the neighborhood. To top it off, mixed with all this was a quantity of maggots feasting on the shit.
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Off to the right, I heard the sound of a truck pulling up toward me. In the back were two guys swaying to the jostling of the truck upon the dirt road. In fact after awhile it seemed to carve out its own road in the grass that was by the wayside of the road. It gave that illusion that you see on the war movies and television, but yet this was the real thing. A little bit more of the reality was shattering within my mind. YES, that sweet illusion of reality that slowly crept up on ones person at different times.
The three quarter ton truck came to a stop about ten feet from the side of the out houses. In the back the two guys were joking and laughing about some inaudible joke. With the jerking stop, they both disembarked from the truck. It seemed to lift when both of them jumped from either side. One of them stretched when he hit the ground. There was a moan of deep satisfaction coming from his throat. He asked me,"if I was one of the F.N.G.s that had come in on the plane the other day."I said,"yes". Then he asked what I was going to do in the company. I told him I was an Air Traffic Controller. He started to laugh and joke with the other guy about the statement. They said,"they also were Air Traffic Controllers and were on the shit burning detail for the day. He said,"they were up to their asses with new Controllers". This statement made me feel about as needed as more shit on the pile.
During the interim, they proceeded to carry on with there detail. They both proceeded to go to the back of the out houses and open the trap doors that were there. One guy had a long metal rod, which was used to jimmy the door up to its full height. Inside I could see the cut portion of the fifty five gallon drums. It seemed to be overflowing with shit, paper and maggots. The guy with the pole proceeded to pull the fifty five gallon drum out. It slid with relative ease.
The sight of the mixture was more sightly now, and had the full intensity of the sun in which to focus. They continued to drag the drum until it was ten yards from the out house. At this point the other guy went back to the truck. In the back were a couple of army gas cans. With a jerking motion he lifted the ten gallon can and carried it over to the drum. Inside the can was JP-4 fuel. It was a slower burning fuel than gasoline and burned with greater intensity so it seemed. Upon reaching the drum, he poured some of the can into the drum. It made a gurgling sound as it came out of the can. Then the guy with the pole came over and turned the shit and JP-4 fuel, until it was mixed.
Before long there was a column of black smoke rising from the drum. The odor of the burning shit was something that left wonders to the imagination. We all looked on as the column rose to the highest levels the eye could see.
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