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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2016 2:15 pm 
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Adventure Rider
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Location: Central PA
Who, what, where, when?

"This one time at Band Camp" don't count, unless it's a true tale. :rofl:

Me: Is it camping if you get paid to do it? Here are some rambling recollections from my youth.

I was stationed in Korea in the late 80s/early 90s. Yay! On the DMZ. Boo!

Many people have seen pictures of the DMZ in the news. Things like massive bunkers and sandbag emplacements, pictures of each side's MPs wearing Ray-Bans and staring each other down across a white line. Most of it is not like that. It's just woods and fields and on our side there will occasionally be a multilingual sign that says you're moving to the point of no return and gonna get died if you keep going.

It's not really a straight line either. There are undulations and protrusions into each sides territory that were agreed upon during the truce negotiations or snatched at the last moment by either side while the negotiations were ongoing during the war.

Our jobby job was to patrol the unpublicized parts of the DMZ. It wasn't a show of force operation to the commies, that kind of stuff was usually done by the ROK (Republic of Korea) Marines, a tough bunch of bastards, we preferred if the commies did not know we were there.

This was at a time when things were still "warm" to "hot" on the border. They probably still are. The suburbs of Seoul are in artillery and rocket range after all. So each side is a little touchy about things.

North Korean special forces would attempt to insert agents across who would either make it to a population center and burrow in for some future purpose or commit some act of terrorism or attempted assassination of a South Korean official.

Rarely (I'm told it wasn't uncommon in the 60s and 70s) in the sectors controlled by the South Korean Army the North Koreans would tie a rope around a man and he would approach the South Korean Army positions and start pointing his AKM at them. Usually he would get called back and scurry away. But if this went on long enough, or if he came just a few steps too far, the South Koreans would shoot near him and if it went on still, they would shoot him. Then his buddies would drag him back by the rope. They tended not to pull this crap in the ROK Marine sectors. They wound just shoot him at the drop of a hat.

On the naval front our side were always intercepting attempted seaborne insertion of agents by small boat. Often it would result in a wild manhunt and usually in the death of the agents either by their own hand or at the hands of the South Koreans.

Anyway...

Two days before we'd get a patrol warning order. So we'd prep our gear, that was already prepped, and meticulously clean our rifles that were already clean. We'd take apart our magazines and inspect and clean them too. Rifle's not clean if the magazines aren't clean.

We'd pass our rifle to a buddy to look over, if it passed his inspection our sergeant would look it over. Then we'd go to our little range and check our zeros. After zero was confirmed we never took the rifle down (apart) until after the patrol. This was in the days before optics were widely issued so we were using good old irons.

We'd put all our gear on and partner up with a buddy. One guy would jump up and down and the other would listen for anything that jangled or made a noise and we'd do that until everything was 100% buttoned down to our satisfaction.

There is no sound in nature that is metal on metal so we even taped up the snap hooks on our LBE harnesses. Oh, and if you used black tape, bzzt, no good, do it over with green. Every piece of gear and pouch was tied to us with paracord "dummy cords" so nothing would fall and make a sound or get left behind. New guys got stuck carrying the Claymore mines. They thought it was cool until they figured out they were carrying more weight and that that weight was a directional mine embedded with hundreds of steel balls. Perfectly safe. (Actually was - pretty much)

This was at a time in the Army when most senior sergeants were once privates in Vietnam or had been tutored under them. Our patrol leader, SGT. Ashley was one such man. A professional soldier if I ever met one. He was totally committed to his trade and instilled that in us. When we thought we had everything ready he'd check us over and always find some small thing to fix. He wasn't nitpicking. He was teaching us. We were after all a bunch of teenagers and there are few creatures on this earth dumber than a teenager. :rofl:

The next day before the patrol we'd have an inspection by our captain and often the colonel. We'd setup all our gear on a table by each man and they'd come through and check everything again. They also made sure we understood the rules of engagement we'd memorized and repeated back a dozen times before.

After that it was off to the intelligence tent where a battalion officer would give us a briefing and outline the latest goings on in our patrol area, recent NK movements, where we were to go and anything special they wanted us to look for or watch for. Maps were distributed to sergeants and corporals. We never marked anything directly on a map. We'd put them in clear plastic pouches and use grease pencils so they could be wiped away quickly if it was ever necessary. Privates didn't get maps on account of they could be prone to lose things in the field. :biggrin:

Then we'd wait. The rest of that day and early evening were spent doing the things soldiers do. Eating crappy food, laughing, playing cards and telling BS stories about life back home. 8:00 PM was lights out by order of SGT. Ashley. Few could fall asleep right away.

At 2:00 AM we were up. We ate and then painted our faces, ears, necks and our hands with tubes of camo paint. That got checked too to make sure we didn't miss a spot. Any skin not covered by your BDU (battle dress uniform) had to be made Army green. Before we left the tent each man had to walk past SGT. Ashley for a final gear check. Then we were off to the trucks.

The good ole deuce and a half truck was our ride. We'd pile in the back, elbow each other for more room and finally settle down a bit with most guys catching a few more zzzs. If there is one thing you'll learn in the military it's how to sleep anywhere. In the rain or in a truck, I even fell asleep standing up once. You learn to sleep pretty much anytime you can because you might not be able to later.

Occasionally a few minutes before we were ready to roll out a pair of fellows carrying duffel bags and oddly shaped oblong bags would hop in. They were guys from the sniper platoon. The duffels had their Ghillie suits in them and the other bags their rifles. Going into insertion they tried to look like anyone else.

They mostly stuck to their own whether in the truck or around camp. We never attempted any chit-chat and neither did they. It was nothing personal. They belonged to one club and we to another. Besides they were older guys, at least in their early twenties. So I expect they didn't have too much patience for our teenage senses of humor and we couldn't understand why these old guys were always so serious.

Along our insertion route the truck would slow and stop for a few seconds every now and again, false insertions. But eventually at one of these stops they'd hop out and disappear on their own into the forest. We'd see them again in a few days back at camp.

We knew they would be watching us and the other patrols in the area while we were out. Extra pairs of friendly eyes, usually up on a ridge line somewhere looking at us goofy teens tromping around in the bush and probably shaking their heads at us. We were very particular about our gear, movements and noise discipline but compared to the field craft exhibited by the snipers we were elephants painted fluorescent orange.

Eventually we'd arrive at some jumble of numbers and letters on a map grid. The trucks would stop, it was as far as they would go, our signal to un-ass the vehicle as the expression went. We'd wake up anyone still sleeping and groggily pile out onto the trail and immediately head for the wood line. The truck would continue on and make more false insertions on its way back to camp by a different route.

Once we got into the woods a hundred meters or so, having zig zagged to a new course from our entry point after the last man was well within the trees, we'd lay up in a wagon wheel for ten or fifteen minutes and listen and watch. Everyone facing outwards in a circle with feet to the center. Once satisfied that nothing was amiss SGT. Ashley would give a hand signal and we silently move out towards our next jumble of numbers and letters on the map to setup a patrol base.

The "base" consisted of us finding a tactically advantageous bit of ground a few miles into the woods and SGT. Ashley pointing out where he wanted us to setup. We'd dig a "ranger grave", a shallow hole the length of your body and just deep enough to lay down in without having any body parts above the dirt line, and cover up our fresh earth scratchings with leaves and sticks. All this before 7:00 AM. Then we waited again.

We'd wait and watch a few hours until it was time to do a daylight patrol. No one much liked them but they had to be done. Half of us would get volunteered to go out under the guidance of our corporal and we'd take our medic and one radio with us. The rest of us would dump our rucks and just take LBE, rifles and water so we could cover ground faster. The lucky guys got to stay behind and rest up in the shade. But no sleeping. Once patrol started, no one was allowed to sleep, under pain of getting your ass kicked by SGT. Ashley if he caught you.

We'd exit out of our patrol base to the rear on a different line than we'd initially come in on and then parallel our patrol route for a few hundred meters before doing a wagon wheel again. Once the corporal was satisfied we'd move along our patrol route. For us privates with no maps it was a game of follow the leader but often we would pause and one of us would get sent out ahead to scout some bit of dirt that caught the corporal's interest.

It wasn't all just a stroll in the bush though. You had to be very careful as many areas were never de-mined properly and only God knows what kind of unexploded ordinance could be a few inches or a foot under the dirt at any spot. Besides, there were angry people on the other side of the imaginary line on the map doing the same thing we were doing at that moment.

When the day patrol was finished we'd make our way back to "base", always by a different route, and rest up. The fancy new MREs were eaten and we repainted ourselves where the sweat had washed away our camo and wait for dusk. Then all the hasty fighting holes were filled and covered with debris from the forest floor. The area was combed for even the smallest bit of trash or items. We'd take branches and dust away our boot tracks. Not so that anyone wouldn't know we were there, but more so that they wouldn't be able to get a good read on how many of us there were and what direction we went.

Once we moved out of the former patrol base we'd find a new spot to lay up until it got truly dark. Then we'd begin the night patrol. Even more fun. In those days there was only enough crappy early night vision goggles to outfit a few. The rest of us just had to make do by moonlight and try not to get separated from the man in front, while keeping an eye out for the man behind you. You had to resist the urge to bunch up at night and keep proper distance which meant you might only see one or possibly two other members of the patrol up ahead at any time.

So we'd patrol around and change directions often, stop and listen, and do things like leave two men behind off to the side while the rest of the patrol moved on to an agreed upon spot. After a few minutes watching and listening the stay behinds would catch up and we'd start our routine again.

Sometime around 2:00 AM we'd find our way to final observation point and setup ambush. Mines would usually be set out, but not if we were in a spot where we felt there was a possibility they could be turned around to face us sometime in the night. One such spot was nicknamed "Scary Finger." It was a jut of raised dirt pointing like a finger into the North Korean side, so on three sides of you was the wrong side of the border.

Then we'd wait and watch. The point of all this was interdiction and deterrence. To interdict any attempted crossings from the north and to deter such activity in the first place by constantly patrolling and having night OPs and ambush positions.

Well before dawn, or the first hint of light, the patrol would silently retract any mines, sanitize the area and start to make its way back to friendlier territory. The same procedures of zig zag routes, stay behinds and wagon wheels were followed. Finally we'd get near a trail and wait. You do a lot of that in the Army. Eventually we'd hear the rumble and squeak of an old and abused truck coming up the road. Our chariot had arrived and would take us back to camp. Sometimes we'd pick up the snipers along the way, but often not. We'd just see them around camp again and exchange nods.

Once back "home" we'd turn in our ammo, grenades and other goodies, eat, wash up and sleep. There would be one day off, two if lucky and you were generally left alone. The officers were good and didn't try to find busy work for us. I guess they figured it wasn't necessary to keep us out of trouble since we'd be tuckered out from the patrol and were more interested in sleeping than getting into mischief.

Then the next patrol warning order would be issued and we'd do it all over again.

The DMZ is a weird place, and some spots are weirder than others. There are few if any signs of human life but there's always this feeling of being watched, because you are. You just never know if the eyes watching you are friendly or not.

One particular sector we were patrolling was my least favorite. Once on the day patrol I stepped out into a patch of clear in the woods and onto an overgrown tennis court, or what had once been one. Corporal who had been there before said it used to be part of a diplomatic facility from before the war and this was what was left. Whole area had a spooky feel to it. Best way to describe it is almost like finding an abandoned house with the door open, dinner on the table and no one in sight, but you felt there was someone there.

On the side of the mountain in that area the North Koreans had cut down all the trees to spell Freedom In The North across the face of the mountain. They blasted communist operas on loud speakers 24/7, we blasted back Led Zeppein. If we put up a higher flag pole then a few days later theirs would be replaced with a new one a foot taller.

Then there were the tunnels. Old tunnels had been intercepted by counter mine operations and new ones were being discovered, big and small, by seismic sensors. One old tunnel was big enough to drive tanks through. The North Koreans, they like the tunnels.

Maybe this doesn't qualify as camping but it's the weirdest place I've ever slept in the woods. Except this one time at band camp...but that's a tale for another day... :2_thumbsup:

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DRZ400
2 Sons, 1 Labrador, 1 Cat

Scoreboard:

Concussions: 1
Broken Bones: 5
Plates: 1
Screws: 8

Giggles a plenty...


Last edited by LostInPA on Sat May 14, 2016 9:21 am, edited 6 times in total.

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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2016 3:29 pm 
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MSF Student
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Location: Monterey, CA
Not particularly DR related, but I've stealth camped quite a bit in my time. I used to own an '87 VW Westfalia that I took on mountain biking and climbing trips all over. I've slept in my van (and my truck!) on the side of the street many times. Walmart parking lots were always good spots too.

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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2016 4:18 pm 
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Location: East-Westside, Washington
I lived out of a 91 Toyota Corolla All Trac for a few months back in Vermont.
My favorite spot was the parking lot of an old clap board saw mill.

backcountrymedic wrote:
Walmart parking lots were always good spots too.


Normally kind of dangerous in my neck of the woods. :s_no
Recently though, the number of seemingly indiscriminate fatal shootings are on the rise.

I think I would prefer to camp out in the woods so that if I had to discharge my sidearm, the chances of an innocent bystander being injured would be highly unlikely.

Bears and meth heads don't keep these things in mind. At least bears usually stick to wooded areas....

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2013 DR650 34,651------->DR790 1,000 miles and counting


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PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2016 12:01 pm 
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Location: NW Oregon
Location: 800' above the ocean
Not sure if it is weird but I have spent many nights half way up mountains in a bivy sack.

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PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2016 12:25 pm 
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kenr74 wrote:
Not sure if it is weird but I have spent many nights half way up mountains in a bivy sack.


Did that once as a teenager. Got caught in a thunderstorm at 9:30 pm at 3,500ft on the eastern face of Camel's Hump in Vermont.
Wound up crawling in side my sack, wrapping a tarp around me, and wedging myself into a small crevice in the rock face.
Wasn't very comfy, but I was dry and warm.

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2013 DR650 34,651------->DR790 1,000 miles and counting


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PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2016 1:29 pm 
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Location: Central Florida, Where the clueless go to drive...
In the Navy back in the 70's I would hitchhike from Norfolk VA home to Florida, spent a few nights on the roadside. I carried a jungle hammock and I would climb up behind a billboard and string the hammock up in the signs framework, the bright lights on the front of the sign kept most of the bugs away from me. I would probably get busted for some federal crime nowdays, also carried a 45 while hitching.

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PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2016 1:31 pm 
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Sandcrabdave wrote:
also carried a 45 while hitching.


.45

Because no one should have to shoot twice :biggrin:

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2013 DR650 34,651------->DR790 1,000 miles and counting


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PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2016 9:39 pm 
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Sandcrabdave wrote:
In the Navy back in the 70's I would hitchhike from Norfolk VA home to Florida, spent a few nights on the roadside. I carried a jungle hammock and I would climb up behind a billboard and string the hammock up in the signs framework, the bright lights on the front of the sign kept most of the bugs away from me. I would probably get busted for some federal crime nowdays, also carried a 45 while hitching.

Best so far! :2_thumbsup:


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PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2016 9:51 pm 
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Of course, I've got a few! It's Friday night! Don't know about "Weird" but some were unexpected others were just dumb and some not very comfortable.

In 1973 got my converted Milk delivery truck stuck on the beach in San Blas, Mexico, driving around at night. We camped on the beach.
Cool, right? What we didn't know was that the Tide in that Delta like area, traveled in about a mile. At 3am we had to move up the beach ... and the Milk Truck was under water. At dawn the Nociums struck (Gegenes) Eaten alive.

Camping on the Ice in Antarctica was interesting. Right in the middle of a Cormorant (AKA Blue Eyed Shag) nesting site ... wonderful smells. Four of us did 4 hours on 4 hours off ... for a week studying 200 of the bloody Blue eyed buggers.

Lots more ... for later.


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PostPosted: Fri May 13, 2016 10:56 pm 
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nicholi1222 wrote:
Sandcrabdave wrote:
also carried a 45 while hitching.


.45

Because no one should have to shoot twice :biggrin:


9mm kills the body. A .45 will kill their soul. :rofl:

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Professional American
Shinko 804/805s
Adventure Vest
DR650
DRZ400
2 Sons, 1 Labrador, 1 Cat

Scoreboard:

Concussions: 1
Broken Bones: 5
Plates: 1
Screws: 8

Giggles a plenty...


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