Peace is Our Profession War is just a Hobby.
May 31, 1985
In war – nightmares and reality coexist – and for a combat soldier it becomes very difficult to determine which one is which. The worst part is when the nightmare actually is reality.
As the flight from Japan to South Korea continued, Jakes thoughts drifted back to another time, another war and remembered a dream where he saw the foreboding figure of death, the destroyer of men, aka the Reaper. He was very much acquainted with this figure because he’d seen him up close and personal and it terrified him. He remembered when . . . Jake opened his eyes at the sound of the pilot’s voice over the intercom. He looked around him and then down at his watch. He was finally here, in South Korea and about to be in the nightmare of another war. He did not mind it really, after all, he was Ready Eager and Prepared and has been this way since he joined the Air Force and went to Vietnam, or so he tried to remind himself. I will get off here and be transported to Kunsan, a place way down south and out of harm’s way, at least for a while anyway, he thought. He wondered just how long it would take for the war to reach him. He would read about it and watched the news about it and believed from all those reports that it was true, but the question was, was it going to be conventional or was it going to be worse, Nuclear, and the worst factor or reality of all is the loss of life. Soldiers, American and enemy, along with civilians were going to die. And another unknown factor, China, and Russia. If they get involved, World War 3 would surely be the result. He thought about the irony of a motto he saw outside of a Bomber Alert Crew billet, it read ‘Peace is our Profession, War is Just a hobby.’ For Jake, the nightmare was about to get worse.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the Pilot said. He told them they were beginning their decent and would be landing at Inchon shortly. He ended by saying, “Welcome to the Republic of South Korea. It is Friday, May 31st, the weather is cloudy, the temperature is 85 degrees, and there is some rain in the forecast.”
Jake checked his watch again. Twenty to twenty-three hours. I called the total flight time right.
As the big plane, referred to as a Stretch 8, touched down at 0945, South Korean time Jake looked out the window. Even though he was air borne qualified, he hated flying and was glad to be back on the ground. Smiling, he opened his notebook and finished his entry that started with the flight from Patrick Henry Airport in Newport News, VA, to the airport in Kansas City, a six-hour layover and then onto Washington State, Hawaii, Japan and now South Korea. He wrote a few more things then prepared to get off the plane and head for customs. That would probably take a little while, so he knew he would be waiting.
As Jake walked through the terminal, he could feel the tension; and it was high. Of course, the threat from the North Koreans was serious and the military wasn’t waiting on word from Washington, they were ready now. War was on the horizon – as a matter of fact, it was knocking at the front door. For Jake the thought of another war brought two reactions, one excitement, the other, apprehension. In his mind, as was in the minds of anyone ever being in a war, there was nothing good about it. Death and destruction are never good.
He followed the other passengers through the terminal toward the baggage claim area. As he walked along the talk sounded strange. The people spoke in a mixture Korean mixed and English, which to him made it sound, all jumbled up. He noticed as well that there were more Security Police than normal patrolling and stationed at strategic points. He smiled because these men were trained and ready. These men were the finest and no matter what they would give a good account of themselves.
Finally reaching the baggage claim area, he stood where he could watch for his bag. It had special markings on it making it easier to spot when it came around. After about five minutes, he saw it, grabbed it, and threw it over his shoulder. He looked for the customs sign and headed in that direction. He checked in with all the other military personnel and proceeded through the main area and into the holding room. There he went through baggage inspection and received an in-country briefing. The group was informed about what was allowed and not allowed in country, the usual security policies in place, and the current threat level. The thoroughness was not surprising.
First Sergeant Pete Steel of the eighth Battalion, 75th Rangers, out of Camp Page, stepped onto the bus that was headed for Kunsan Air Base. He found a seat about midway and sat next to the window. With the war coming the Air Force had requested someone be sent to provide some additional and last-minute combat training to the Security Police there and they wanted the trainer to be a Ranger, so he was selected.
It was 1230 when Jake cleared customs. The customs inspector told him about the bus leaving for Kunsan in about fifteen minutes. He closed his briefcase, picked up his duffle bag, and walked outside. He found the bus and gave his duffle bag to the driver to load into the cargo compartment then he boarded. He walked down the aisle to about the middle and stopped. There was an empty seat next to an Army First Sergeant. Jake noticed the patch, 75th Rangers. “Mind if I sit?” Jake asked, looking down at him.
The Army First Sergeant, who sat by the window, looked up, and then pointed, “Have a seat.”
Jake put his briefcase in the rack above him and sat down. He stuck out his hand and said, “Sergeant Jacob Anderson, Air Force Ranger Combat Security Police.”
They shook hands.
“Didn’t know the Air Force had any Rangers,” the Army First Sergeant said. “Pete Steel, US Army, 75th Rangers, roll tide, whoo-ah.”
Roll tide. Another Alabama fan, Jake thought. Jake was a Georgia Bull Dog fan, so he just smiled. He had no idea that he and this sergeant would meet again and very soon.
“Where you headed, Sergeant Steel, US Army, 75th Rangers roll tide whoo-ah?”
Steel smiled at how Jake said his name, and then at how he added the “US Army Ranger roll tide” to it. “I’m on my way south to some jack leg Air Force Base,” he said, returning the sarcasm. “To help some jack leg Air Force cops with some real deal combat training …” He paused for a second. “… And you?”
“South as well, to Kunsan.”
Steel smiled. “Well, alright.”
The bus pulled out around 1300 and the driver announced that normally the trip to Kunsan would take about four hours. This time, however, it was going to take a little longer than expected. They had to make a stop at Osan Air Base first. He said that should take about thirty minutes. Jake and Sergeant Steel just shrugged and chalked it up to normal.
The thirty minutes went by relatively fast and when the bus finally entered the Osan Air Base main gate, Jake began to get ready. He figured on going into the terminal to get a drink and use the latrine. Ten minutes later, the bus pulled into a parking area near the visitor welcome center and the driver opened the door. Jake, looking out the window, noticed a civilian style jeep parked next to the curb with a tech sergeant standing outside the driver’s door in camouflaged BDUs.
The bus driver told everyone to take a break and be back in ten. Everyone got up, except Jake and Sergeant Steel, who waited. Everyone moved past them while Jake watched the sergeant at the jeep. He was just standing there with his hands crossed over the top of the door and leaning against it, observing everyone getting off. It was as if he were looking for someone in particular. Jake took a breath, got up, and for some reason grabbed his briefcase.
“You going somewhere,” Sergeant Steel asked. He opened his eyes and looked up.
“Yep, I need a drink and to use the latrine. Besides, I want to talk to that sergeant standing there at that jeep.”
“Man, I thought you might have decided to stay the way you grabbed your briefcase and all.”
Jake smiled and stepped out, walked down the aisle, and watched as the sergeant by the jeep approached the bus. Jake got to the door and stepped down to the bottom step, stood in the door for a second, and then stepped down out of the bus.
“Are you Anderson?” The technical sergeant asked, as he walked up to him.
Jake paused for a second then said, “That’s what they say. But my momma, she calls me Reb.”
“Reb,” the sergeant laughed. “Well, my name is Landis, and I am your ride.”
Jake looked at the Jeep. It was compact with very flimsy doors and it looked like the top would blow away with the slightest of breeze. “Well, nothing against you and I’m for sure not questioning your abilities, but I think I’d rather ride in that jeep.”
Landis looked at him with a puzzled look on his face. Then realizing what he had just said about him being his ride, laughed.
“Are we really going to drive all the way to Kunsan in that?” Jake asked.
“Nope, not driving and definitely not to Kunsan.”
Jake looked puzzled. “If we are not driving, and we are not going to Kunsan, then —”
“Oh, well judging by the surprised look on your face, I’d say you have not gotten your ‘Oh-official’ notification.”
“Nope, I guess I didn’t.”
“Well, let me enlighten you there, Sergeant.” Landis reached back into the jeep, pulled out an envelope, and handed it to him.
Anderson took the envelope, opened it and took out the set of orders and read the word “reassigned.” He looked up, “Rebel Station?”
“Yep, when Colonel Christopher, the Commander of the 8th, heard you were a Ranger and all, he just had to make sure you got to wonderland. Of course, the captain, he didn’t like it when he heard about it. He hated it even more when he had to send me to get you, not liking you and all. I’ve been here now for a day just waiting.”
“What do you mean by the captain not liking me?”
“Well,” Landis said as he looked at the Ranger Tab, “you ain’t exactly his kind of person with you being a Ranger and all. So,” he said with a big grin, “welcome to a place that’s as close to no-man’s land as any Security Police ever wants to be and that is to close.”
With the exception of the captain not liking Jake, he figured on finding men who were well trained and ready for action. He wasn’t ready for what he was about to find.