Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Last Fire Drill

In a comment posted to one of my Blogs, a friend said that I should write some Kagnew Station stories in my blog. I feel that most of the stories that I tell about Kagnew Station, Eritrea, Ethiopia, East Africa are a little too obscene for this blog. Most of them cannot be toned down without losing the true essence of the story.

While looking through my files I found a story, written in 1999, that I could post to this blog. But before I post the story I must first give you some background information.

Artwork by Roxie Howard
Kagnew Station was a communications monitoring post located in Asmara, Eritrea (8200 feet above sea level). It reached its peak (no pun intended) in the late 1960’s and its closing began in 1973 with the withdrawal of the largest unit stationed there; The Army Security Agency. I had the good fortune of being there during the prime years (1966-1969). Subsequently I am the antagonist in a chapter of Michela Wrong’s non fiction book about Eritrea.

All that being said, here is a homogenized story about life at Kagnew Station in the late 1960’s. This is for you Pal Val.

It was the summer (rainy season) of 1968. Company "A" had just gotten a new Company Commander (LBJ – a sobriquet given to him because of his physique). I was on "A" trick, sharing a two-man room on the second floor with Little Willie. We were working Eves on the next to last day of the cycle. That night, after work, knowing we only had just one shift to go before our 48-hour break, we did what came natural; went downtown to savor some of the local nightlife.

At the ungodly hour of 0645 the Company fire alarm went off. I, as well as others, thought that this must be the real thing. Usually in the past we had always been warned of upcoming Fire Drills. Most of the guys would shack up downtown to avoid participation.

Grabbing what we could to cover ourselves, we headed for safety in the street in front of the barracks (I wish I had a picture of this). Guys came out of the barracks in sheets, in blankets, in under shorts and some with towels wrapped around their waist.

The alarms and noise in the street had also awakened the dependants living in the family housing across the street from A Company. As we gathered, they gathered, waiting for the Fire Trucks to arrive.

Out of the building comes the new CO. He sarcastically congratulates us on our ability to vacate premises in orderly fashion. Boos and hisses followed. Most of "A" Trick dropped their cover, walking naked back to the barracks and bed. The dependants living across the street were appalled at sight of us being au natural. Some of the guys even waved the distinguishing mark of their sex at the dependants. The families complained to the Post Commander. From that day until the day I left Kagnew that October, we didn't have another fire drill.

The Beach Bum

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love you like a brother!
You keep at it. I can give some stories too, if need be.
God bless my friend,

Tue Nov 27, 07:31:00 PM  
Blogger Thomas said...

That must have been the one when Little Willey thought the alarm bell was his "Big Ben" alarm clock. After trying to turn it off twice, he threw it at the wall an broke it to pieces.

That's when he realized that he wasted his clock.

BTW, weren't there a few moons?

Tue Nov 27, 09:30:00 PM  
Blogger The Beach Bum said...

Tom -

Little Willie was sound asleep when I returned from going downtown with Maddog and the Walking Wrinkle at 0300 hours.

When the alarm went off I was still on fumes. It may have been me that threw Willie's clock.

After we were dismissed and disrobed, a few moons and red eyes were shot at both the CO and dependents. The Top who was a short-timer (about 10 days to go) just stood there shaking his head in disbelief.

LBJ was shouting that he wanted our names. The Top, who knew who we were, didn't give us up.

The Beach Bum

Tue Nov 27, 10:22:00 PM  
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