The Army runs on Diesel

immersion heater germany

I stumbled on this pic from my old unit in Germany. When you pulled KP (kitchen patrol) out in the field, it was an all day gig. They’d wake you up at like oh-dark-thirty (~3am) to start getting chow ready for the field site. We often worked to about 2100 since a lot of the field doggies would come in late. We would fill these huge trash barrels with water, usually by dragging two 5 gallon jugs to and from the water buffalo. That got old fast in the snow. You’d need at least one can for washing and another for the rinse. Sometimes, we’d make an extra can for a nice hot tub bath later. We usually worked through chow so we didn’t get to eat until after everyone else did. And leftovers were kinda gross.

The heaters are fueled by a big can of diesel on the side. It would drip fuel in at a slow rate to keep it burning. But you had to be super careful. So I started a drip, I lit some paper and dropped it in. You have to keep you head far from the opening or it could blow in your face. Well, I dropped in the lit paper. I waited a good 20 seconds and nothing seemed to happen. So I peek in to see and BOOM it blew up in my face. It blasted my head up and I just turned and fell face first into the snow. I wasn’t sure what I had just done to myself. I managed to burn all my eyebrows and eyelashes into crispy, burnt-end curls. My buddies got a big laugh at how it looked.

Other fun chores we got in the field was guard duty. I almost forgot my birthday one year. I was standing at the entrance to our site on top of a snowy mountain in Germany with my Mickey Mouse boots on and my parka hood cinched down to about a 2 inch opening. The snow was coming down hard. I was standing there wondering what day it was, so I looked at my watch. It was almost midnight, 16 Jan 1984; my birthday. Oh well. I did get some candlelight that night. A few hours later, I was startled by a bright light. I look over and one of the tents caught on fire. Each tent had a diesel burning stove. Its pretty safe unless it overheats, turns to cherry red, and then something close by or the stove pipe catches fabric on fire. That’s what happened. They were yelling, I was yelling, it was mass chaos. Fortunately, everybody made it out alive. But they lost a lot of their gear.

We also got to pull 60K generator duty. We had to keep it filled with diesel to make sure all the communication rigs were kept running. We also started all the backup 5K generators that were on trailers once a day. I drove for a lieutenant, so among all my other duties, I had to drive him/her around to different field sites and HQ to receive orders and missions. But I also had to set up their tent and attend to their needs. Then we sometimes went on foot patrol to check our perimeter. Sometimes we had a unit of Infantry guarding us. But most times we were on our own. They said if the balloon ever went up, we’d be alive for about 7 minutes since they’d target communication links first. So our outside perimeter was the least of our worries. Such good times.

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