THE WILD, THE WACKY AND THE WONDERFUL
I have met some really weird and wonderful characters while serving in the military, civil service and during my stays in other parts of Africa. I am going to tell you guys about some of them. I have used their real identities and I am sure that they would not mind as these antics have been discussed during many a male bonding pub session or two. These are all true stories and I salute each and everyone of these guys who I had the honour of knowing personally:
MARK (DEATHWISH) MOSES
I first met Mark in 1985 when he was co-pilot on a DC3 crew flying out of our local airforce base in Bloemfontein, South Africa. It is the home of the SA Defence Force airborne (paratrooper) training wing and when we had jump courses, the airforce attached a designated Dak crew for the 3 week jump courses. The Capt of the "Gooney Bird" was a chap by the name of Von Brandis. He had the rank of captain and his nickname was "Brandy" and Mark Moses was a full lieutenant. I was a sergeant and a parachute instructor at the time.
Mark was fresh out of basic flight school and this was his first assignment as a transport driver. Brandy was a high timer and and an amazing pilot. He could almost read the minds of the instructors in the back of the aircraft as we went about our task of despatching students in sticks (groups) from the Dak. Brandy really threw the Dak around to accommodate the "boys" in the back and he pulled out all the stops in order make sure we got the job done. Paradropping day in and day out is very boring for the pilots and many created false alarms such as mag drops or starter problems when they got bored and then headed to base to "fix" the problem for a couple of hours. Brandy and Mark never did that and we built an amazing rapport as a result.
During a tea break one morning, Brandy took the piss out of Mark and told us all about one of Mark`s moments in training where he managed to flip a training Harvard onto its back during during a duffed landing. Mark walked away but the instructor had his back in a brace for a long time. We had known Mark for a week so we all kept a hairy eyeball on him as a result of this story. Most of the communication between the despatchers and the crew goes through the co-pilot via hand signals and headsets....so he is a vital link.
After the last drop of the day, the Dak boys traditionally gave a nice shootup over the drop zone to say their farewells. One one occassion, the Dak clipped the top of our windsock which was mounted on the mast of a tentpole about 12 feet in the air above the tent. We shat ourselves when the windsock got slammed down on top of our command post. The next morning, we found out that it was Mark who controlled the shootup and we nicknamed him Deathwish!
Two days later we were on a long finals for a drop (1000 ft for training) and I walked to the front of the aircraft to speak to Mark when he beckoned me. On my way up I noticed loads of oil streaming from the starboard engine. This does happen most of the time but it looked like a lot more oil this time. I told Mark and he said f-ck it , they would check it later as it was the second last drop for the day. On my way back, I noticed that the oil was now finding its way onto the rear windows and there was now smoke to add to the effect. I went back to Mark and the lazy tosser got up and came to look. He went pale, almost pissed his pants and screamed for all of us to get the f-uck out. As he shouted at us to get out, the first little flickers of flame appeared and Mark bolted to tell Brandy. We moved the boys out the back in one steady stick of 18 and then went up front to strap in. The flames were really bad now and Mark was telling us to jump as well. Now, we carried pissy little 26 ft emergency parachutes just in case we accidentally fell out the back while despatching. These friggin things were not designed for "normal use" so we refused to leave the aircraft. Luckily Brandy did not push the issue as we would have had to obey his commands as PIC. I think he was too intent on getting us down safely. The fire was really bad at this time as we were on final approach for a forced landing next to a highway, the right main undercarraige stayed put so Brandy opted for gear up on the grass verge next to the highway. He greased it, we all climbed out and extinguished the fire which had cocked up the paint job and almost burnt through the fuselage. In the pub that night, we gave Mark a new nickname, Deathwish 1.
The following Monday we had to stop paradropping as a sand storm approached the DZ. Brandy opted to return to the airforce base for coffee while the storm blew over. We had 24 paras on board so we just went back and waited it out. We went for coffee and the guys stayed put in the aircraft. After the storm had passed we got airborne and flew to the DZ again with Mark at the controls. Shortly after takeoff, we hit some serious wind shear. The seats in the back collapsed, we were thrown to the ground and some guys accidentally popped their reserve chutes. It was f-cking chaos what with 24 trainees farting and sweating and screaming. I just saw the ground coming up at us and I threw myself flat. As I lay there kissing someone els`s ass goodbye, I saw Brandy on the controls and shortly thereafter we recovered. Damn, we nearly thundered in that day.
What happened was that Mark had forgotten to remove the gear safety pins so gear could not retract and this caused more drag in the down draft of the wind shear. Mark was pulling back on the controls to keep the nose up and we almost stalled. Brandy was trying to keep the nose down while fighting Mark at the same time. Anyway, Mark got a new nickname...Deathwish 2.
Three years later, Mark was in a DC3 flying some VIP pax around the operational area on the border with Angola and Namibia. The VIP`s included several ministers, the Chief of the Army and the Chief of the Defence Force, General Constand Viljoen. En-route from Opuwa to Ondangwa airforce base, a terrorist took a pot shot at Mark who was flying PIC. The SAM 7 (surface to air missile) nailed the horizontal stabilizer and blew away most of the tail section leaving a little piece of the elevator. Mark managed to control his descent into Ondangwa where the emergency services were suspending a massive catch net across the runway to "catch" the Dak. Mark did a stirling job and actually got the bird down in one piece. He was awarded a "Honorus Crux" medal for bravery and we nicknamed him Deathwish 3.
Many years later (1996) when I was with the intelligence service, I was returning to Johannesburg on a flight from Zurich. I was the only person in business class of this 747 and I was in heaven. My flight steward kept the rum and coke flowing and I watched movie after movie. It was a late night flight and when I was well into my 6th R&C around midnight, I heard a voice break into my movie sound track. The voice sofly sang the Pink Floyd line "Is there anybody OUTHERE!" from confortably numb. I blamed it on the R&C but just to make sure, I turned to look at my own personal steward, who jumped up to refill my glass. Shit, I must be hearing things, I said to myself, but it happened again and this time it was slightly louder. I blamed it on a dodgy sound track or a mix of the sound channels. My new R&C arrived and I slotted back into movie mode. About 3 minutes later, the same voice sang "Oh it`s been so lonely in the saddle since my horse died" and it did not sound like a professional singer at all. Shortly after this, the Pink Floyd line started again. I said f-ck this and called my main man over to ask his advice. He told me that it was just the F/O who was bored and had been inviting any awake passengers up to the flight deck for a chat and a spot of coffee. The steward asked me if I wanted to go, I said OK and he offered to haul a new R&C up my way once I was settled. When I walked up to the flight deck, I knocked and went in, the F/O turned to greet me and as true as f-ck, it was Mark Deathwish 3 Moses.
I spent the rest of the flight chatting about the good old days until our descent into Jhb. It was great fun but drinking the friggin R&C until 06h30 in the morning binned me for the rest of the day.
ALWYN (RED WINE) VAN ROOYEN
The WYN in the name Alwyn means wine in Afrikaans, the South African anglo Dutch language. Alwyn was a special forces dude I met back in 1981 as a young corporal. I was at a military base called "Infantry School" in a place called Oudtshoorn. It is also famous for its ostriches. I was busy with a mortar course and there were loads of guys from different units. As paratroopers, we shared a unique bond with the special forces guys as some of our operational activity overlapped a lot of the time. We also wore the same colour berets which were maroon. Anyway, Alwyn also sticks in my memory for three reasons.
Alwyn was the self appointed social activity coordinator on the 3 week course. He always drank wine and he always looked for an excuse to celebrate. Almost every night was barbeque time after which we would head off to the town pubs to check out the local talent and to generally stir up some shit with the locals and their gals...you know, normal army stuff! What made Alwyn even more unique was his wooden leg, his startling good looks, his smooth tongue, his amazingly twisted sense of humour and the fact that he drove around in a dark purple VW Combi van which he called "his purplepeopleeater". Now for the three things which I will always remember about Alwyn.
On the second night of the course, Alwyn organised a spur of the moment wine tasting session in his VW van. It had a friggin wine cellar built into the back which was well stocked. As paratroopers, we were not used to such displays of "culture". Here I refer to the wine tasting and not the purple van. After this session combined with some ostrich steaks on an open fire, we bundled into the van and cruised into town to introduce ourselves to the masses. We chose the ladies bar at the local Holiday Inn as our first stop. After a number of rounds of R&C, Alwyn started us all singing songs which pretty much drowned out the local two bit band and dispersed much of the local patronage. Alwyn was probably on his third or fourth bottle of wine when he told the barman how brave we men of the maroon beret were. He told the barman wild tales of our endeavors as fighting soldiers from the skies and emphasized our tolerance for pain. After being indoctrinated and brain washed by Alwyn, the barman asked for a demonstration of this ultimate "toughness". Alwyn calmly said sure, threw his leg up onto the bar counter. whipped out his 9mm Star pistol and blew a f-cking hole through his foot......on his wooden leg. The barman keeled over in a dead faint and all hell broke loose in the pub. We joined the evacuation with the best of the civilians and moved on to newer less familiar terrain. Over the course of the next few days, Alwyn and the barman concocted a story about an accidental discharge of the weapon which satisfied all the authorities concerned. Alwyn was his hero!
On another similar evening while on course, Alwyn organised a sheet party on a Friday night and hosted it in the bar at the Holiday Inn, complete with a very cooperative barman and a better band. We invited a whole lot of chicks we had never met before and the scene was set for some festive merry making to start off the weekend. Alwyn and I had a blind dates with two sisters who were the daughters of the barman`s cousin`s nephew`s niece or something like that and we used my car which was not purple and was not a LCBO on wheels.! For a change, everything remain relatively calm throughout the evening and Alwyn and his date seemed to be getting on very well. When the party was over, we left to take our lovely lasses home. Alwyn sat in the back with one of the sisters (I remember their surname was Zeelie). All of a sudden Zeelie # 2 let out a shriek of surprise and started cursing Alwyn and calling him a cripple mixed with other booze induced insults. Yeah, she had just discovered his wooden leg. He just sat quietly while I tried to make peace but Zeelie #2 gave us both a mouthfull for not "revealing" the secret of the leg to them. I could not understand what difference it made. These solid citizens were only after one thing, wink wink. We ended up driving straight home and dropped them off outside their house and with our long faces and lovers balls, were about to drive off when Alwyn asked me to stop. He wound down his window and asked Zeelie #1 to come over to the car. He asked her to at least give him a goodnight kiss. She responded while #2 just buggered off into the house. As #1 put her head head into the car, Alwyn wound up the window trapping her head. He told me to drive slowly down the road towards base. After snapping at me a second time, I obliged. #1 was at this time squealing like a stuffed pig and and doing this really f-cking weird crab walk next to the car. In a calm voice he politely told her to shut up and then proceeded to lecture her on various points of ettiquette to do with ones manners when dealing with soldiers which suffered from war wounds and had prosthetic limbs. This went on for about a km down the road at 02h00 in the morning in this one horse town. It must have been a site for any dude looking at us from the safety of their homes. Alwyn even made a point of unzipping his fly, whipping out his ample sclong and showing her what she was missing out on. With the lecture over, he told me to stop, he climbed out over the back seats and walked around and gave her a good wallop on on the ass. He told me to release her and he calmly got in and we drove off. Later we heard that the brothers had put a price on our heads!
The last thing I remember about Alwyn was when he arranged an end of course dinner for the instructors and their wives. I failed to understand his eagerness to do this because the instructors were utter wankers and we disliked them as much as they disliked us. I think they were just jealous that they had not made the grade into special units and had a chip on their shoulders. Dinner time came and it was a formal affair held at (you guessed it) the Holiday Inn. Alwyn was MC and the perfect host. At the end of the dinner, coffee and liquer was served with some cheese, biscuits and after dinner mints. With a weird smile on his face, Alwyn passed around dinner mints to the wives but he struggled to keep a straight face. We did not know what the hell had gotton into him but blamed the booze. After he had served the ladies the mints, he sat down and watched them sucking away. He was starting to freak us out as he got the uncontrollable giggles. Later it panned out that the bastard had kept three of those mints tightly housed in his ample foreskin for the entire duration of the course and he was just enjoying watching the ladies enjoying the fruits of his labour! What a guy??
DILLY DU PLESSIS
Dilly Dup as he was known, was second in charge of the parachute packing section back at our home base. He was a wizard at DIY parachute making and he was forever trying new designs. One one Saturday afternoon, he and his wife went out to our local civilian flying club / parachute club in order to test a new design. He used to drive a small green Renault 5 and when we saw it bombing along in our direction, we just knew Dilly had some new trick up his sleeve. We were all done for the day and so we were sucking back on a couple of cold ones while we watched Dilly line up on the threshold and haul out a large parachute canopy from the trunk which he attached to a long tow rope. He strapped this whole rig on and then gave his wife a 10 minute briefing which we could obviously not hear. Then she climbed into the little renault and took up the slack. Dilly gave a thumbs up and she let rip with 800 horses. Dilly gave a hop and a skip and was airborne attached by 100 ft nylon rope to the bumber of his car. We were quite impressed and gave a loud cheer as Dilly soared up and para-sailed behind the car now going hell for leather down the blacktop runway. Suddenly, Dilly Dup started to lose altitude with a distintive yaw to the right which he managed to hold until he greeted the runway with a loud slap and a scream. Mommy showed no signs of slowing down and she was blissfully unaware of Dilly who had by now managed to convert himself into a dust devil at the side of the runway. We all jumped up and bolted for a truck to chase them down but by the time we got there, she was at the other end of the runway. Dilly was standing off to one side dusting himself off and bemoaning his singed parachute, gear and clothing. All he could say was, "I told the stupid bitch to watch me in the rearview mirror"! Apparently, Dilly had not incorporated a cut away system into his design and his wife was told to watch him all the time. When Dilly soared out of view, she assumed that he had stayed there the whole time!
One weekend, we held a parachute accuracy competition at the same club. The idea was that we used old Russian PC (para-commander) parachutes which were round with cut out rear panels that make them steerable to a degree and also gave them a little forward speed of about 3 mile an hour. We would go to 3000 ft, hop and immediately pop the chutes. Each jumper was responsible for "spotting" to determine his own release point and exit from the aircraft. Dilly was a master of his domain and he quickly progressed to the finals. For the final jump, it was decided that a case of beer (a 24 of cans in a flat box) would be placed in the arena and the winner was obviously the guy who landed closest to his prize. The first guy went out and managed to land about three feet away from the beer. Dilly exited second and looked good until he was about 30 feet above the arena. He saw that he was going to overshoot and he "cut away" from the parachute and thundered onto this case of beer from about 20 feet. There was f-cking beer foaming all over the place after Dilly landed but he was out cold. Stupid tosser broke his leg to boot!
Deon or "Turbo" Terblanche was a special forces soldier who was renowned for his stamina when on foot in the operational theatre of war. He was a wiry guy who was all sinew and muscle. He could outwalk any other soldier I have ever met. He certainly earned the nickname Turbo. As a special forces and reconnaisance solder, he often operated alone. On one such occassion in 1982, he was sent off far behind enemy lines into Angola to do reconnaisance on a suspected terrorist training base. After two weeks away, HQ received a scrambled radio call that confirmed that Turbo had found the base and was in a position to call in the airstrike. He also confirmed that the base was slap bang in the middle of a large town called Cuamato in Southern Angola.
We were scrambled as heli borne stopper groups and ground assault forces which would follow an airforce bombing run and rocket strike into the target at Cuamato. While the first wave was inbound using Mirage fighters and 1000 ** napalm bombs, the strike leader repeatedly called for Turbo to identify and mark his location so that he could be avoided. He replied that strike leader should call him 5 minutes out for an apdate and confirmation of his position but to continue on a straight run at the town. Turbo did this as he was afraid that his radio signals would be compromised thus giving away his position. Turbo proceeded to give very accurate reference points to the attacking aircraft inbound for the target. The pilots were impressed at the time with his precise and accurate descritions of what targets needed attention.
5 minutes inbound, the strike leader called for a a FLOT (front line own troops) marker so that they knew where Turbo was. He told the pilots that they could not miss him, as he was standing on top of the water tower in the middle of town waving his hat at them! He had been living on top of the tower for almost 6 days without detection. The boys in blue had a field day bombing and rocketing the target while Turbo parked off on his tower giving a running commentary, target direction and occassionally clipping a terrorist that was becoming bothersome. When we arrived, the target was well saturated and our mopping up was brief with only one fatality. Turbo stayed on his tower until we had almost finished mopping up. One of the flight engineers in a Puma helicopter took a photograph of him and it ended up in a friggin book about the bush war.
Turbo was also a character in many other ways. At a barbeque in the bush after training when one of our mates had passed out next to the fire, Turbo repeatedly used his hand to drag coals around and to claw hot potatoes out of the fire.
When we were acting as instructors for an advanced free-fall course, Turbo was at his best. The course is called HALO which stands for High Altitude Low Opening. We climb up to 32000 ft in a C130 Herc and bailout with oxygen as a silent penetration technique to get to sensitive targets undetected. I call it skydiving made uncomfortable but it is a real experience not for the fainst hearted. In preparation for such a jump, we load two massive oxygen cylinders into the Herc, seat ourselves around it and 'pre-breath" for 30 minutes on pure oxygen to purge all the carbon monoxcide out of our systems. After 30 mins we take off and bomb up to altitude. Usually there are two six man teams cared for by 2 oxygen monitors and two instructors when in training or doing simulated exercises.
Now as we ascend, the oxygen mix is diluted with a percentage of the surrounding air and for this purpose, there is a small intake valve which sucks this air in, mixes it with pure oxygen from the tanks and then links to a free flow breathing system on your face mask. At the time we actually used fighter pilot helmets, masks and eye protection in the form of goggles that made you look like a friggin goldfish. Now while on the climb to altitude, Turbo came into play. While checking the status of his students while they sucked their mixture with wide oxygen pumped eyes, he would drop little garlic burger and rum and coke farts right at the mouth of the mixture valve. Then he would turn around to monitor the discomfort of the jumper who was forced to suck it in as they were prevented from removing their masks while at altitude. He used to drive us f-cking nuts with his damn bowel movements as he liberally sprayed the Herc interior with the most foul aromas. Once I even saw an airforce loady drop his lunchbox into his mask where it came squirting around the sides.
Turbo made us eternally gratefull for the -40 C temperatures outside @ 32,000 feet after leaping off the ramp into a dark night watching your alti unwind past 12 a couple of times. You would hang in a 6 man formation plummeting down at 180 km per hour and look around to see a weird looking apparition which turned out to be Turbo who had, just before exit, broken his lumi stick and sprayed the contents into his face and mask!
There were many more weird and wonderful characters but I will put the brakes on this post as I might get a bollocking from Joe or the moderators. Wink
I might take it up again during another Wild Ways?
Here is Turbo on his tower
Not to be confused with Springjob, Handjob, Blowjob or any other job......except a flyingjob!