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"Strap Hanger"
© 1997 Donald E. Valentine
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Super Spook Training

[This section covers intelligence training as an Agent Handler [Ft Holabird, MD April 1970-August 1970]

US Army Intelligence Center and School

Fort Holabird is located in South Baltimore near an industrial center in the Dundalk neighborhood. After a thirty day furlough, I reported there in March 1970. They processed me in and told me that I would be receiving an allowance for quarters and rations and that I would have to find a place to live off post because they were short of quarters on post. So I went apartment hunting and of course my first stop was the post watering hole, the NCO Club, where I met an SF buddy, Sergeant First Class Curry who just happened to have a spare bedroom. Curry was an SF radioman that I had met at Fort Bragg through Harry P. Clark. Curry was about 6í tall and medium built with dark curly hair. He offered to share his three bedroom apartment with me and I moved into his unit at Bear Creek Apartments. This apartment complex was about two or three miles east of Fort Holabird in the Dundalk area. Curry already had one other SF sergeant living in the apartment with him, but I can not remember his name. They were attending the Special Forces Intelligence Course and had about six weeks before they graduated. My SF buddies referred to the "Agent Handler" students as "Super Spooks."  Because I was the ranking man in my class, I was automatically the Class Leader.


The instructors spent the entire first week of class emphasizing that an Agent Handler always lies about his true identity, his job and his background; that an Agent Handler deliberately studies people so he can be-friend them and then use this phony friendship to take advantage of their weaknesses; how to persuade his "friend" to risk their life to help him; and that an Agent Handler will always know everything about his agent, but the agent will never know the Agent Handlerís real identity, employer or background.

Every day for the first two weeks, an instructor would ask us if anybody had changed their mind and wanted to drop out of the course. We did have one or two drop out the first week, but Iím not positive exactly how many. One of our students was a US Marine Corps corporal and two were US Air Force sergeants, everyone else was in the US Army. Several of the army students were Specialist 5th Class and/or Sergeant and above, but most of them were privates fresh out of basic training. Except for one spoiled brat, we had a pretty darn good group of guys. The brat was one of the recruits and he acted as if he considered himself too good to be in the army and forced to socialize with such riff-raff. The army should have sent him to an infantry rifle company because he would need very close supervision as long as he was in the military. He definitely would not be closely supervised in military intelligence. Most likely his family was financially well off and he was too chicken to flee to Canada and figured intelligence duty would be the next best choice.

They issued me so many textbooks I could not carry them all in one trip to my car. We had about the same number of books that were classified SECRET, but we were not allowed to remove them from the classroom. Almost all of our classes were also classified SECRET. They must have issued me at least twenty pounds of books that covered everything you ever wanted to know about communism, the communist party and the geography of communist countries. That course required a great deal of reading. [I still havenít found the time to read all of those books on communism and communist countries.]

One of the first things that we learned was that we were not training to be spies, we were training to be espionage agents. The instructor explained, "Spies are shot on the spot when captured. Captured espionage agents are considered good bartering material." That made sense to me. Actually we were training to learn how to recruit, train, target, infiltrate, exfiltrate, and debrief espionage agents as their use became necessary. But in order for us to train them how to be an espionage agent, first we had to learn how to be one ourselves.

There were two neighborhood taverns on the main street between Fort Holabird and Bear Creek Apartments and I always stopped at the NCO Club on post where I would usually eat and pass the time with some other special forces sergeants and maybe their favorite tavern enroute home each day.

Back home in the hills of East Tennessee we donít have taverns like those. The Dundalk taverns were friendly places where the customers mostly all knew each other. They were a place to get the latest neighborhood news and politics. Back in the mountains, especially in the Cocke County area, a tavern was called a "Honkytonk" or a "Joint" and most of the local crooks hung out there. Those places were a center for neighborhood meanness and most likely much of the local meanness was planned right there. Every beer joint was operated illegally. Back then they either did not have a liquor or beer license but sold it anyway or they had a beer license but also sold whiskey. Many of them also sold the services of their female employees. Those places were also where roughnecks went to get as drunk as they could and cause as much trouble as they could before somebody killed them or the owner evicted them. A stranger that entered one of those beer joints was either ignorant or crazy because he was automatically suspected of being with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation [TBI], Drug Enforcement Agency [DEA] or Alcoholic Beverage Control [ABC]. If that stranger happened to be wearing a tie, that was as good as confirmation that he was a government man and he was treated accordingly. A few years back, law enforcement officers raided a beer joint in Cocke County, Tennessee. Counting the owner, employees, and customers, there were a total of 30 people present at the time of the raid. In addition to other illegal items, the officers confiscated 35 loaded pistols. There isnít one beer joint in Cocke County, Tennessee where at least one person hasnít been killed and most them have been the scene of several killings.  I was in one tavern there one time and an elderly gentleman sitting beside me was discussing pistols with his neighbor and pulled a pistol from every pocket in his overalls and denim jacket and those overalls have many pockets.  After he showed the pistol to his friend he would put it away and pull out another one.

When I discussed my tour with the 46th SF Company in Thailand, I mentioned Big Griff and I told a few things about him. I only know one time when "Big Griff" ever got his massive ass whipped and that was in a Cocke County beer joint. Big Griff was a Sheriffís Deputy from Marion, Virginia investigating a tractor theft at the time. Griff told me, "I decided to try and find an ex-special forces buddy of mine who was from Newport, Tennessee while I was there. I went in a beer joint wearing civvies and asked the bartender if he knew Paul Hill. I just wanted to try to find him and say hello while I was there. As soon as I mentioned his name, everybody in that place attacked me ó males, females, the owner, the customers ó everybody. They nearly beat me to death. They hospitalized me. I was lucky to get home alive. I donít know what my buddy did to them to cause that reaction and I donít care. Ever since then when I drive through Cocke County, Tennessee, I speed up!" Big Griff added, "Val, Do you know Paul Hill?" I replied, "Hell no and Iím not asking for him either." Knoxville, Tennessee, however, does have some taverns that resembled those in the Baltimore area.

One evening when I arrived home, after spending a few hours at a local tavern, I was met at our door by a naked young lady wearing nothing but a bed sheet that she had hastily wrapped around herself. Pocahontas was racing madly for the front door and right behind her, making ugly faces and waving his arms around wildly, was  one of my SF roommates. Since I had just closed the door and was blocking the exit, I offered the lady part of my egg salad submarine sandwich that I had bought for a midnight snack. She accepted and it was apparent that she was glad that a relatively sane person had arrived or maybe she just loved egg salad.

It seems that Lady Godiva and her sweetie had been in the sack when he glanced out the window and noticed that it was a full moon night. He suddenly pretended to be a werewolf and she panicked. It didnít take long to convince them both that it would be best for all concerned, if she didnít race outside wearing nothing but a sheet with him chasing after her in his skivvies. Finally, I persuaded her that her new found lover was not a werewolf, that it was just a stupid joke and he was not going to hurt her, but she still refused to go back to bed with him. The intoxicated would-be werewolf finally became disgusted with the whole affair and staggered off to bed. After we finished the sub, I hit the sack too. Lady Godiva hopped into bed right behind me.  I guess she really did love egg salad.

One weekend, our class decided to have a picnic at Fort Howard. Several of the younger guys brought a girl friend. We had a good time. While we were there some soldiers in jungle fatigues came strolling out of the woods; they were SF men and students at the school also.

Naturally, the SF soldiers noticed the attractive ladies amongst us and gazed admiringly at them which caused some concern amongst our group. None of the SF men had noticed me yet, I guess I don't rate compared to the girls. Whispered comments between my students indicated they were fearful there was going to be a confrontation because of the ladies. So I stood up and walked through my students to my roommate, Sergeant Curry, who was with the group of SF guys. Curry introduced me to the other SF guys that I didnít know and I told them who we were and why we were there and they continued on their merry way ó much to the relief of my students. The ladies were simply amused by all of this. Shortly afterwards, the SF class graduated and my SF roommates returned to Fort Bragg. That was the last I ever saw or heard of Curry or his "werewolf" buddy.

That was when I asked the two air force students in my class to move in with me and home life became less zany. In fact, we were down right civilized. At least there were no more naked women running around the apartment wrapped in a bed sheet. Of the air force guys, I only remember one that dated and that was Sergeant Bird [not his real name] who was stationed in the Tampa/St Petersburg area. Bird was a tall, skinny, redhead with a hooked nose and his buddy was a short, slim man with dark hair.

One of our instructors was Chief Warrant Officer "Dirty Tom" Conley and another was named Picarello. Dirty Tom was a crusty old soldier and we took to each other right off the bat. One day about a week after school started, Dirty Tom called me aside during a break and said, "Val, you really screwed up." I asked him, "Howís that Tom?" Tom replied, "These people love to get their hands on you guys." I asked him, "What do you mean Tom?" Tom said, "Real Soldiers. MI loves to get real soldiers from the real army because we have some dirty assignments that they canít get their candy-ass intelligence types to do." Tom walked away without explaining exactly what he considered a "dirty" assignment. I thought, "MI canít have any duty assignments that are any worse than what I have already been through." However, it was a good clue that I might be headed right back to Vietnam when I finished training.

So we began our education in the clandestine ways of the intelligence community. We learned right away that our intelligence instructors used the "real world" teaching method instead of the traditional teaching method whenever possible. In other words, in traditional schools, "First you learn, then youíre tested," but in the real world, "First youíre tested, then you learn." Of course the real world method assumes that you will survive the test. The real world method of learning is very effective, but it is also very frustrating and stressful.

Our training began with the basics such as terminology, military intelligence organization, typing and paperwork. Soon, I discovered that there was lots of paperwork involved in my new job and I was glad that I had started learning how to type on my own before I left Oki.

Ma Klicka was the typing instructor for our class. Ma Klicka was a legend in her own time at Fort Holabird and the Baltimore area in general. There was only one parking space on Fort Holabird that had a sign reserving it for any particular individual and that sign read, "Mrs Klicka." God help anyone who parked in Ma Klickaís space: She did not hesitate to telephone the Post Commander. Ma had been an instructor for the US Army Intelligence School since there had been an intelligence course located at Fort Holabird. She had been a typist for many years before that. In fact, during the 1920s or 1930s, she set a world typing record for speed and accuracy and I believe that record still stands to this day. As I recall, she typed something like 150 or 200 words per minute for six hours non-stop and never made a single mistake. She accomplished this on an old manual typewriter and like I said, even with the new electric typewriters and computerized word processors, that record has not been broken to this day.

Apparently Ma had outlived more than one of her husbands which didnít surprise me in the least because that lady was one tough cookie. One of her late husbands had been the sheriff of Baltimore County when he died and she had replaced him as sheriff. From all reports, she had made a good sheriff too. Like I said, Ma was one tough cookie.

Ma was a real stickler about how you handled her typewriters. You could not just grab the paper and rip it out of the carriage, you had to roll it out by hand and when the class was over, you had to cover the typewriter and the cover had to be all the way down and the bottom edge of the cover had to be horizontal. She insisted that the typewriter was a weapon and was to be treated with respect.

Ma was in the process of writing, editing, and re-typing a new typing manual for the school. She did all of this at the same time that she was teaching her class. She was giving us verbal instructions, supervising our typing efforts, and final-typing the new typing manual all at the same time. That may sound impressive, but it is only half of the story. Ma was also typing fast, very fast, and the keys were clicking to the rhythm of the Lone Rangerís Theme. Ma never missed a beat, kept a watchful eye on her students and never made an error the entire time.

One day, my prima donna student was about thirty minutes late for typing class. He strolled in the door during class and I asked him where he had been. He said, "Iím not a kid anymore and youíre not my father. I can take care of myself." He was walking down the aisle to his desk at the time. He sat down as he finished his stupid statement and when he looked up, I was standing beside him. He grinned a nervous grin. Leaning forward, I rested my hands on his desk with my face nose-to-nose with him and in a low voice I told him, "Wipe that stupid smile off your dumb ass face or Iíll wipe it off for you!" He just gaped at me because I wasnít nervous and I wasnít grinning. I said, "Wipe it off, now!" He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and he was no longer grinning. With that I stood up and motioned for him to follow me.

When we reached the menís latrine, I chewed him out for about ten minutes. During that time, I reminded him, "The army had decided that he would be responsible for everything that he did or failed to do and that I would be responsible to make sure that he did it the army way, not his way." I also informed him, "Iíll let you know when you can miss a class or formation and until then you better have your sorry ass at the appointed place at the appointed time and if you ever pull a stunt like that again, I will personally ram my boot up your ass all the way to your empty skull."

When we finally returned to the classroom, he was a tad more subdued and tried to blend in with the rest of class and disappear.  I actually thought that dipstick was going to cry. Ma loved it! She said, "Sergeant Valentine, youíre my kind of guy."

[In the mid-1980s, I saw a commercial on television promoting the Apple "McIntosh" computer and the Apple word processing program. The only person that appeared in the commercial was this little old lady who demonstrated how easy it was to type using that system, but she stated something to the like "nobody, even if they used a McIntosh, could break her world typing record."  She patted the McIntosh and wished it good luck with, "Lots of luck trying little fellow." The lady in that commercial was none other than, "Ma Klicka." It didnít refer to her as "Klicka," it listed her by another name that I did not recognize, but that was Ma Klicka alright. The commercial probably used her maiden name or her married name at the time she set the typing record. That was the last time that I ever saw, or heard anything about, Ma Klicka.]

One of our first classes was on the art of "elicitation." Training on this subject lasted several hours. Elicitation is a method of getting someone to share information with you without directly asking for it. One way to elicit information is to make a direct statement that you know is incorrect in hopes that the source will correct you before he realizes that heís said something that he shouldnít have. Another form of elicitation is sharing intimate secrets about your job or your personal life, which will be a lie of course, in hopes that the source will also share a secret with you. There are too many techniques to cover them all, but this should give you a basic understanding of elicitation.

Naturally the final exam for the elicitation training was also based on the real world method of teaching. Each student was given the last name and class number of another student at Fort Holabird and an otherwise blank Personal History Statement that consisted of six pages. We were to fill in the blanks with information that we "elicited" from our assigned subject. My target was an army specialist who was in the classroom across the hall from our classroom. Within a week, I completed almost all of my form and turned it in.

Because they had targeted me against someone in another class, I figured everyone in our class had been given someone outside our class as a subject, but I was wrong. Just before graduation, the marine corporal in our class confessed to me that  I had been his elicitation subject and that he had just turned in his PHS a week earlier. He said, "My form was still almost blank. I tried to spend as much time with you as possible and tried to get you to talk about yourself, but I didnít get enough information to fill in a third of the first page. All I know is your name, rank, that youíre from somewhere in East Tennessee, and that you served with special forces. I learned absolutely nothing about your personal life or military history. Even when you were drunk you didnít talk about yourself or your job. When you were off duty, all you did was eat, drink, and kid around. You spent almost all of your free time bar-hopping with your SF buddies. Youíre just not normal sarge!"

He was wrong, I was normalófor an SF soldier. He just wasnít SF, thatís all. Maybe he flunked the elicitation part of our course. Regardless, I never understood how this elicitation exercise could not affect the careers of the students who were chosen as the target. After all, if the super spook student succeeded and got the information that he or she was after, their assigned subject was obviously a security risk.  I donít know of any action that was ever taken against any of the personnel that were targeted for elicitation training. Most of them never knew that they had been the targets during our elicitation exercise.

One of the more interesting classes was on surveillance. This covered many, many hours of instruction in the classroom and in the field. We even went to downtown Baltimore just to practice surveillance. Professional actors were employed full-time by the school and each of them played various roles, such as, captured spies, sources, suspected spies, and surveillance subjects. Myself and two other students were assigned to follow one of the actors that were employees of the school. Our subject was a short, elderly, fat man. I thought to myself, "Boy, we have it made." Not so, that old fellow had been doing this for many years and he was an expert at counter-surveillance and downtown Baltimore. On the other hand we were new at this job and had never even been to downtown Baltimore. We were the ones that were in trouble.

We were provided with a photo of our subject and his habits and told that we could expect to pick him up at a certain intersection at 1030 hours. So thatís where our surveillance began. We spotted our target easily and off we went. He made a couple of turns, stopped at several glass front stores to check us out in the reflection, doubled back once or twice, and went through a couple of traffic lights. It didnít take him long at all to spot us.

We took turns being the closest one to our subject which we referred to as our "rabbit" so hopefully he wouldnít spot us. Eventually our rabbit entered a building and went directly into an elevator that was almost full. At the time, I happened to be the nearest hound to our rabbit so I shoved my way into the crowded elevator right behind him. I thought, "This little dude isnít getting away from me." Our rabbit situated himself by the control panel and punched one of the floor buttons and asked me, "What floor buddy?" I responded as taught. Without looking at my rabbit, I said, "Top floor thank you." Right then, I knew that he had spotted me. He punched the button, but just as the doors began to close, he said, "Oh, I forgot something, excuse me," and squeezed out between the doors. Well, I shoved through the people, grabbed the doors and exited right behind him, saying, "I forgot something too." I thought, "He isnít leaving me on that elevator never to see my surveillance team again."

Our rabbit finally entered a Boy Scouts of America office and he never came back out. [We learned later that he was friends with the office personnel.] When I went into the office and asked about enrolling my children in the scouts, our rabbit was no where in sight. Obviously, he had exited by the back door. That fat old man was long gone. We quickly spread out and stationed ourselves on three corners of that block, I stood on the corner across the street from the BSA office. From that corner I could see each of my other two men, but they could only see me. We had all four sides of that block covered, but our fat old rabbit had finally lost us. We kept watching and sure enough, our rabbit popped out again from a side street. After confirming that he had lost us, he had returned so we could pick him up again. Off he went again with us racing along to catch up to him. Naturally I was the farthest one from where he was spotted and had to run through the crowd like a maniac to get into position.

When we returned to class the next day, the rabbit debriefed and graded our surveillance team. Our team grade was about average. Nobody did great, every team was just passable. Thank God they didnít require us to practice vehicle surveillance, we probably would have killed somebody.

We were also trained in cryptography and the crypto system was the same that I had used as a radioman in SF. They also taught us how to set up drop zones and I had already been trained in that.

They trained us in secret writing. No, we didnít use invisible ink. We had a special type of paper that was chemically treated and when you used it in a certain way, the writing was invisible. We also learned how to clandestinely open sealed envelopes and even how to remove a letter from a sealed envelope without opening it.

We even had to crawl under a military-style barbwire fence and practice firing the .38 caliber revolver. That was a snap for an old grunt like me. We also learned that their technicians could make or order any specialty items that we may need from time to time, such as "concealment devices." A concealment device is an item that a person would blend into the environment whose main purpose is to conceal something else. If our technical section did not produce what we needed, they could get it from the CIA.

We received extensive training in "cover." Cover is the term used to describe an "overt and legal reason" for you doing something or being somewhere while your true reason remains a secret.

We even had to have a backup cover story in case our cover was blown, we would still have one more lie to tell [your back up cover story] to divert attention away from the truth. Many times, the back up cover story is an illegal or immoral reason for being where you are and doing what youíre doing and for lying about your activities in the first place. If you use it, you may spend time in prison, but at least you wonít be shot - hopefully. We also learned that a good cover requires a great deal of careful planning, practice, and support. After all, you donít want to be dumb enough to confess to a crime that is punishable by death in your target country. By support I mean someone will actually answer the phone in an appropriate manner, if you give a phony telephone number as a part of your cover and the enemy dials that number. Cover training even included pocket-litter. A good cover will not draw attention to you or your mission. It will help you to blend into your environment.

We learned how to communicate and pass material using "cut-outs." Sometimes we passed the material or message directly to a courier and sometimes we deposited it in a secret spot for the carrier to pick up later. All of this was supposed to be done in the open in front of other people, but at the same time in a manner that did not attract attention or arouse suspicion.

When you select the secret spot to leave the material, you also select two other sites - one for the load signal and one for the unload signal. After you deposit the material in the secret site, you put the load signal at the load site. After the courier retrieves the material, he puts the unload signal at the unload site. A common signal site was utility poles and the sides of buildings near the corner. The signal itself might be a certain color crayon mark for example. Almost every utility pole in downtown Baltimore was marked with every color in the rainbow.

Some of us, me included, really screwed up the first time we were required to pass a very small item to a courier in a public place. We were required to use a homemade concealment device. Trying to devise a practical concealment device in which to place that item and a practical way of passing it to the courier, nearly drove me nuts. Of course, we had not yet had any training in constructing concealment devices or passing items to a courier.

Finally, I decided on a bar of soap as a concealment device. First, I divided the bar of soap in half and hollowed out a place in one half to hold the item that I had to pass. Then I put the bar of soap back together and sealed it back in its original wrapper. It took me three bars of soap to get it right. Next I pondered over how I was going to pass that bar of soap to my courier. Then I had a brilliant idea; I would pass it in front of the supermarket in Dundalk Shopping Center. First, I would buy a few oranges and one bar of soap and then, after leaving the supermarket, I would switch bars of soap and tear the bottom of the bag. As soon as I spotted the courier, I would let a couple of the oranges and the bar of soap fall out of the bag. The courier would "palm" my soap and replace it with his own bar of soap as he helped me gather the fallen oranges.

This was my first try at this Super Spook stuff and it was really dumb. They had not yet trained us how to do this because we must first try it on our own, which would vividly impress upon each of us "how not to pass material to a courier." The wind was blowing that afternoon and my oranges took off as soon as they hit the pavement. I had to chase a couple of the oranges. We were supposed to pass the item without attracting any attention to our self or the courier and if any bystander did notice us, we werenít supposed to be doing something that would make them suspicious. Oh well, one out of two isnít bad. Is it?

As soon as the instructors read my plan, they smelled blood. They had planned to video tape the passes that they thought would make the most negative impression on the class. Naturally, I was one of those selected for that honor. They set up the video camera in a parked van in front of the supermarket. Fortunately for me just as I dropped the bag, a large van pulled up in front of me and stopped. Old Val, the Class Leader, was saved from being embarrassed silly in front of his entire class because they couldnít see what I was doing. They showed the attempts that some of our guys made to pass their item to a courier and then they showed some clips from previous classes. During the film, they explained what was going on and critiqued the student. That film was absolutely hilarious. That film should have been on television, it would have won a prize. After watching that film, I didnít feel so stupid even if we did look like the old Keystone Kops from the silent movies.

Now that we were experts at making drops, next we had to learn how to retrieve an item that a courier had left in a supposedly safe spot to be picked up later by an agent.  Our classroom instruction included a demonstration using the "Real Life" method, of course. The only two props on the classroom stage were a desk and a chair. Both were facing the students. The instructor briefed us on the situation. He said, "Pretend that this is the lobby of an office building. Behind the desk on the wall is a directory showing room numbers and floors to the various offices in this building. Off to the left of the desk is an elevator. Your job is to retrieve an item that is taped to the bottom side of the center drawer of that desk. You can have a couple of minutes to plan how youíre going to retrieve this item. If you need anything just ask and you can have it." He asked for volunteers.  I smelled a rat.  Well, at first he got no volunteers but finally one of the guys volunteered. 

As soon as the student got near that desk, a side door opened and out popped two other instructors. They intercepted him and introduced themselves as the Aggressor Police. They wanted to know who he was and why he was in this building and he had to show his "pretend" identification and travel authorization papers. Of course, the studentís hasty attempt to establish a cover story was inadequate and his lack of confidence was apparent. So things quickly went sour for our brave volunteer. He clung desperately to his mission. He finally tried a sneaky attempt at retrieving that information with them both hovering over him and of course they got the item and he was a goner.

The learning points of this demonstration were many. For one, it reinforced a very old army adage, "Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance." For another, "You never make a drop or pick up, if you know the enemy is observing you ó never!"

On the next practical application exercise, students were also used as couriers. After you select the drop site, you also select a site to use as a load signal and another for the unload signal. Then you deposit the item in the site and activate the load signal. You must notify your superiors about these sites and signals. They pass this information on to the courier. They gave us just the barest of instructions on how to do this and of course, they also videoed us again, but I was not videoed this time. Thank God for small favors! That first film was just funny, this film made you laugh until your gut hurt.

The film showed a tall student leaving a package atop a wall that was over his head and then it would show a short courier come along and try to retrieve it, without attracting any attention. The couriers would eventually give up on the clandestine methods and carefully check out the area for anyone looking and then when the coast was clear they would start hopping as high as they could hoping to grab that package. They never got it.

One long-armed student deposited his package beneath a ledge. A small courier with short arms tried several times to clandestinely retrieve the package without success. The package was taped to the bottom side of the ledge and so far back the courier couldnít feel it anywhere. Finally he checked the immediate area and after satisfying himself that no one was watching, he got down on his knees and crawled around under that ledge until he finally found his package.

Several students left their packages inside buildings. They used privately owned stores and government buildings. Some students didnít bother to check the office hours for those buildings. Please rest assured, the instructors did! If a pickup was scheduled when the building would be closed, naturally the camera crew had to be present just in case the frustrated courierís reaction was worthy of recording for posterity - and a few laughs.  The Life Method of teaching is a tough way to learn, but very effective.

Our training also included information on the technical support we could expect. We had a demonstration on intelligence-oriented photography. The photography experts showed how they could photograph a man holding a pack of cigarettes who was a mile away and tell what brand of cigarettes he was holding.

We also got a demonstration by the DAME [Defense Against Methods of Entry] experts. This is the term the army uses for intelligence-oriented locksmiths. The DAME experts demonstrated how easy it was to open several different types of locking devices. Many of the locks were formerly considered by the army as "high security" locks and had been used to secure weapons, munitions and classified documents. They were no longer used for those purposes, partly because these same guys had found very easy ways to "by-pass" them. Lock manufacturers send newly developed locks, minus a key, to the Military Intelligenceís DAME Instructors for them to test. As of that date, they had always opened the locks well within the time limit.

Our first field training exercise was conducted in the Baltimore area and lasted only about twenty four hours. It began very early one foggy morning when a group of students were loaded onto a motor launch and taken out into the Chesapeake Bay off the coast of Fort Howard on Sparrowís Point. We then were loaded onto a rubber boat and paddled in to shore where we were met by a guide who led us to a building [Safe House] in an isolated section of woods. Here we remained until daylight and then our guide released us in pairs to go about our assigned duties.

Each student had to select a drop site and drop off a package at that site. We also had to select load and unload signal sites for that drop. We were then required to prepare a written description of all of this and pass that message to a courier. We also had to receive a message from a courier and pick up a package from another studentís drop site. For rookies that was more than enough to cause us a problem, but there was more. We had to return to the same beach where we had landed so we could exfiltrate via rubber boat. However, there was one additional problem that we must overcome ó a very high, double row of barbwire fences that was guarded by walking sentries. Where this fence was when we infiltrated Fort Howard, I donít know.  I assume we had landed at a different spot.

After we returned from downtown Baltimore we met at the same Safe House and waited for darkness. We had been informed that anyone caught anywhere near that fence would be shot and that it was guarded by special forces soldiers who were here attending the Special Forces Intelligence Sergeantís Course. This got all of my fellow students shook up. They were really nervous now. Sergeant Bird asked me, "Val, do you SF guys have a secret handshake like the Masons? I sure would like to know what it is?" We didnít and I assured Bird of that, but I also knew that there would be no SF guarding that fenceóand I was right. The instructor had just said that to terrify the students.

Try as I might, I could not dream up a cover story for being near that fence that would save me from being executed should I be so unlucky as to be caught. This problem had hounded me every moment that I was downtown carrying out my other assigned tasks. The only feasible story that I could come up with was "I was drunk staggering around in the dark and had no idea where I was or what I was doing." I thought, "Who else but a drunk or a spy would be stupid enough to be in such a place?" So, before I returned to our Safe House, I stopped off at a package store and bought a pint of whiskey to support my story.

After I was released from the Safe House, I paused in the woods and poured that smelly whiskey all over my shirt and rubbed it all over my face and neck. After I used the whiskey as a mouthwash, I put the half empty bottle in my pocket. Then I headed for the fence and hopefully home. So I could time the sentry making his rounds, I lay in the bushes about ten yards from the fence and just waited and watched. It wasnít a full moon night, but there was plenty of light to see by. Being an old infantryman and special forces soldier, I would have preferred a pitch-black, stormy night.

While I was hidden there, a couple of students who had teamed up came crashing through the brush like a herd of wild elephants. There was enough moonlight to see them clearly, but not enough for me to identify them. They never noticed me because I lay still in the shadows and remained quite. They paused briefly behind a bush about fifty yards to my left and discussed their situation. Suddenly they raced for the fence. They shook and rattled that wire loud enough to wake the dead. One must have caught his clothes on the wire because I heard him cursing. I donít know for sure how they fared because after they breached the fence they were too far away for me to see them, but I heard the sentry give chase and shoot at them. This had caused quite a commotion among the guards and several raced up to support their buddies and join in the chase. They all mulled about and some checked the fence to make sure it was not torn down. They gradually disappeared and finally I was alone once again. Silently, I cursed those two dancing elephants because they had, for no good reason, caused a lot of commotion that had cost me a lot of valuable time. We only had until midnight to be at the beach and I only had fifteen minutes left when I crawled under the fence. While I was between the fences, I heard another sentry approaching. They only had one sentry patrolling this area prior to those two elephants crashing through the fence, now there were two. I could only lay still with my face down and hope that he thought that I was a log. It worked. The sentry walked right by without challenging me. After I could no longer hear him walking, I crawled under the second fence and made my way to the beach where our instructor awaited us. I was under the time limit.  The field exercise ended when we checked in with our instructor.

An Agent Handler is required to prepare numerous reports. Trust me, that job involves a great deal of paper work. His superiors require a very detailed report that fully describes his plan before he can begin a new operation. Depending upon the mission, the length of this report usually varied from fifty to one hundred pages. After he meets with an agent or prospective agent, another very detailed report is required. This report was usually about ten pages ó sometimes more. If he gathers any intelligence during these meetings, an additional report that fully explains this information is required. When he pays his agents, a report accounting for this expense is required. A busy Agent Handler has an endless amount of paperwork that he must complete. Fortunately, this field exercise was a "freebie," no reports were required. I later learned that some high class Agent Handlers spent half of their twenty years of service handling only one agent while others worked on several different operations and with several agents on each operation.

We learned about one Agent Handler that the MI set up in a legitimate import/export business in Southeast Asia so he could use that as a cover for contacting smugglers and using them as agents and/or couriers. This Agent Handler did so well in this business and in the smuggling business that he took his discharge "in place" and opened his own import/export and smuggling business next door and stole business from the agent that replaced him in the "front" business. Another man that was also trained to be a DAME expert got out of the army after only one hitch and became a safecracker. According to the instructor, he was still serving time in prison while we were in training. An old recruiting pitch said, "Join the Army and learn a trade," but I donít think that this is what they had in mind.

Our final war game or 'graduation exercise' was scheduled to last five days and required us to use almost all of our Super Spook training. We were given the exercise "situation" which, generally speaking, went something like this:

"America had been taken over by the Communist Party and we [students] are with elements of the US Army that have taken refuge in Puerto Rico.

I and some other students were assigned a target to reconnoiter in Akron, Ohio. Also while we were in Akron, we had to make a drop, meet a courier, pick up a drop, meet, recruit, and train a prospective agent, and write and mail a letter using our secret writing material."

We were required to prepare our own plan and the plan had to include how we would get from Puerto Rico to Baltimore, not Akron. We also had to prepare fake ID [identification papers] under two different names and use both while we were in Akron. The fake ID was simply a card whose format and contents had been chosen by school personnel. It had no meaning for anyone other than the people that were involved in that FTX. It was useless as a form of ID except for identifying you as a participant in that FTX. If we were stopped by a real police officer, we needed a genuine form of identification to show them. We, however, were not allowed to carry any additional ID on us during our stay in Akron. We were only allowed "one" ID card on our person, in our luggage or in our room at any one time. If the FTX "bad guys" found multiple IDs in our possession, we would be in serious trouble. So we had to hide our second phony ID card and our genuine ID while we were in Akron.

Assuming a false identify is difficult enough and we soon learned that trying to use two false identities during the same operation was a real pain in the ass. Remember, our instructors were still using the Real Life Method of teaching; they were forcing us to operate the wrong way so we would hopefully learn from our suffering. Of course, they made sure that we actually suffered.

We had to memorize the name and address of our target. My target was a lumber business that was several blocks north of downtown Akron. Don't ask me why a small lumber business was considered a target because I don't have a clue.  We also had to memorize the details of the many tasks that we had been assigned to accomplish. We had to remember the full name of our prospective agent and the time, place, and bona-fides for that meeting; all of the personal information that I subsequently gathered on my prospective agent and they wanted us to be able to complete as much of that six-page Personal History Statement as possible to include dates; all of the details that we obtained concerning our target; the name and address where we were supposed to send our "secret" letter; detailed descriptions of our drop sites and signal sites; and a detailed accounting of our every move from the time we left Baltimore to include streets we traveled on and the exact time and dates of each action we took. They expected us to retain all of this data until we returned to Fort Holabird without writing anything down. By the end of the second day, I felt like that data was oozing out of my ears.

The first few days of preparation were the most frustrating because we were each trying to figure out how we were going to clandestinely infiltrate Baltimore and return home. We all spent that time sweating over one plan after another and wasting paper trying to put each silly plan in writing only to discard it for another plan that was even worse. We spent the second week typing our final stupid plan.

If I had just read a few spy novels or if I was an experienced criminal, I would have had a much easier time of this field exercise. Me, I preferred reading western novels and had never considered being a criminal. Not one student asked the instructor, "What countries have normal relations with both the new Communist America and Puerto Rico?" Traveling through that country would have been the easiest way for us to reach Baltimore without drawing attention to ourselves. We were required to infiltrate and exfiltrate Communist America via Baltimore. That complicated the situation and we made the situation even more complicated by trying to invent a new method instead of using what was already available and working. The trouble being, we didnít have the foggiest idea what we were doing so we didnít know what method was being used by the real bad guys and working. Ready or not, for better or worse, we finally submitted our plan. When I packed for the trip, I made sure to include some envelopes, stamps, and a box of plain white stationary.

Generally speaking, my "war game" plan looked something like this: I would enter Chesapeake Bay in an inboard motor boat and travel to the Baltimore area; reach shore by rubber boat; hide the small rubber boat; fly to Akron; do my assigned tasks; fly back to Baltimore; retrieve my rubber boat; and rendezvous with my motor launch. My general cover story was that I was going to Akron to repossess a car for the Volunteer Finance Company in Knoxville, Tennessee. My backup cover story was that I was actually there to steal a luxury car for a large international car theft ring that was operating out of Knoxville.

In reality, they issued each of us army travel vouchers in our real names to be used on a specific commercial round-trip flight from Baltimore to Akron. They had already made motel reservations for each of us, also in our real names, at the Holiday Inn in downtown Akron. We had to carry our real military ID with us to use with the travel vouchers and reservations. This was the third identity that we had to carry on our person. Carrying my real ID proved to be my undoing because the intelligence agents who were chosen to pretend to be the "bad guys" in Akron for our little war game became a little too enthusiastic.

Of course, since Old Val was involved, fate just had to take a hand in this situation. Unknown to any of us, shortly before we departed Baltimore, someone had actually planted a bomb in or adjacent to a newspaper office in downtown Akron and to the best of my memory, people had been injured or at least this is what an Akron policeman told me at the airport when we landed. The police in the Akron area were still very concerned. Actually, our war game wasnít supposed to start until we were in Akron.

At that time, the Akron Airfield was twenty miles or so outside Akron, about half way between there and Canton as I recall. As we disembarked at the Akron/Canton airport that Sunday afternoon, I noticed a policeman glancing at each passenger on my plane and then glancing at what appeared to be a photograph that he held in his hand. When I reached the bottom of our gangway, the policeman stepped forward and escorted me to an empty room in a nearby warehouse. Old Val was to be the first student 'in the barrel'.

As soon as we reached the room, the policeman told me about the bombing of the newspaper office in downtown Akron. He told me that I looked like a terrorist that was reportedly coming into Akron to support the local bad guys and he asked me for identification. This was a genuine police officer in proper uniform, complete with pistol and badge, so I presented my genuine military ID. As soon as I did that, out of an adjoining room leaped a couple of guys in civvies. They took control of the interrogation from then on. They really raked me over the coals. The two of them alternated asking me questions while I was trying to concentrate on the questionnaire that the police officer had given me to complete. If I stopped to answer a question, they would force me to keep writing while I answered the question. It is very difficult to stick to a "new" cover story; one that you havenít even "trail tested" under such circumstances. It is doubly difficult to do so when you know that you have already given your real identity to the enemy. Even though, I knew that I had already blown my cover, I stuck to my cover story anyway. Because we werenít yet in Akron and because he really was a police officer, I figured they wouldnít count that against me. We werenít supposed to use the phony IDs until we reached our hotel in Akron and even then it would only be recognized and accepted by the other people taking part in our exercise. We had to use our genuine ID to use our travel vouchers at the Baltimore Airport and we had to use our genuine ID to register at the hotel in Akron. Because these two jerks had interrogated me in an area that I considered to be "out of bounds," I didnít worry about it. Unfortunately, I was the only person in Akron, Ohio with that point of view.

During their questioning, I didnít tell them anything about my real reason for being in Akron nor did I implicate anyone else. They finally released me and I joined the rest of my buddies on a shuttle bus that would take us to downtown Akron.

Immediately after I checked in at the hotel, I began searching for a place to hide my extra IDs and my secret writing material. Finally, I hid them on top of the soft drink machine that was on our floor in the hall. Then, in the lobby, I bought a city map and picked up a city bus schedule before I went for a stroll. Actually, I accomplished quite a bit during my stroll. I cased my assigned target and en-route to my target, I located a good spot to meet my courier. The meeting spot would be at a bus stop in front of a small diner. A couple of doors from the diner was a small gas station and it had very small rest rooms and the locks on the door worked.

Next, I located my target, the lumber company, and entered their office where I got information on their office hours and priced their two-by-fours and plywood. While I was there, I took the opportunity to memorize their office floor plan. Also, I made sure that my stroll took me by the corner where I was to meet my prospective agent the next day, on Monday. For our next meeting place, I chose the Greyhound Bus Station and I chose a nearby bar as a place for us to talk after we made our first contact. We would possibly have to meet three times: one initial meeting, a recruiting meeting and a training meeting. Nobody bothered me during my stroll or during supper and nobody disturbed me that night at the hotel.

The next day, I searched my room, including inside the telephone handset and inside the heating and air conditioning unit, for anything that remotely resembled a bug [electronic monitoring device]. I had no idea what a "bug" looked like, but I dilligently searched for one anyway.  After finding absolutely nothing that I thought resembled a "bug," I met my prospective agent and took him to the bar. We had a beer and got to know each other. So far as I could determine, no one tailed us.

[During our debriefing later, I learned that we were tailed and they followed us into the bar. During that meeting, the two guys tailing us were standing slightly to my rear in the aisle right beside our table throwing darts. Thankfully, they were unable to overhear our entire conversation. They only heard bits of it.]

My second mistake of the day was when I allowed my prospect to enter the restaurant first because he had chosen our table. He chose the seat that faced the door which left me at a disadvantage again ó another mistake. Of course, I wasnít aware of all of these mistakes at the time. I thought everything was cool. Once again, I was as wrong as two left feet - the war game gestapo were way ahead of me.

There was much about this war game, however, that we students did not know. For example, our prospective agents were actually from the same military intelligence unit as the "bad guys" and they were deliberately trying to screw us up. They relayed the details on our next meeting to the "bad guys" so they could be waiting for us. The same thing would happen with the couriers that we would meet. The details of every proposed meeting and drop site were relayed to the "bad guys." We were being "set-up" at every turn. It was impossible for us to complete this war game without being caught carrying out at least one of our assigned tasks regardless of how well we did it. Whenever we left our motel to carry out one of our assigned tasks, we were under close surveillance. Because I went for a stroll as soon as I reached my motel, I had escaped detection that very first afternoon.

That night, just before I went to sleep, someone knocked on my door. When I answered it, there stood the same two gentlemen who had interrogated me at the airport. They once again introduced themselves as "members of the secret police" [the bad guys] and brushed right by me into my room. They thoroughly searched everything that I had brought with me while also interrogating me. They also tossed my stationary all over the room. They thought that I had placed my secret writing material a certain number of sheets down from the top and reckoned that I would be unable to relocate it in the pile they left. The reckoned right. Then they searched the rest of the room, all except for my bed. They found nothing suspicious and finally left after about an hour or so.

About ten minutes after the bad guys left, I think it was about midnight by this time, somebody knocked at my door ó they were back. "Like the ass that I can be at such times, I said, "I figured you would be back." "Why," asked one of the bad guys. "Because you forgot to search my bed," says I. Well that really sent them into a tizzy and they immediately disassembled my bed and threw it into a pile by the far wall. When will I learn to keep my mouth shut.  Then one of them whipped out a screwdriver and they really began to search the room. They even removed all of the fixtures from the walls and even disassembled the built-in desk and cabinets.

When they finally finished searching my room this time everything in the room except for me and the skivvies that I was wearing was in one pile against a wall. My bed, the parts to the phone, lamps, furniture, electrical wall fixtures the built-in desk and cabinets ó everything was in that pile. They still found nothing incriminating and they were beginning to get ticked. Those guys had made one hell of a racket throwing things around and yelling at me and I was surprised that someone had not called hotel security. They had tried to confuse and panic me by alternating questions as they had done at the airport. Hell, I practically stay confused, it seems to be my normal condition, but I never panic, well not often anyway. By now they were not happy campers.

They took me to the police station for further questioning anyway and away we went. They did allow me to don a jacket and a pair of trousers before they "escorted" me out through the lobby. As we went through the busy lobby, the "bad guy" that was holding my right arm whispered, "Act natural." There I was barefoot, wearing only a pair of trousers, a jacket and my skivvies and they were dragging me through the hotel lobby by both arms. Under those circumstances, I had absolutely no idea what they meant by "natural."

By the time we reached the Akron Police Department, it was about one oíclock in the morning. They deposited me in one of the tiny interrogation booths and began my hostile interrogation. Trust me, no one looks forward to undergoing a hostile interrogation. There was just enough room in the booth for a small folding desk and two folding chairs. One of us had to stand, naturally it was me. They constantly questioned me, threatened me with bodily harm and forced me to do hundreds of pushups. "Who are you really? Why are you here? Where are you from?" I stuck to my original story, "Iím Bill Rappa. Iím from Knoxville. Iím here to find and repossess a car for the Volunteer Finance Company." Finally, after about an hour, they made me stand back about six or seven feet from the wall and lean against it using just my thumbs to support myself. They told me to stay in that position and then they left the room.

They were gone about forty-five minutes and during that time my sweaty thumbs slid down the wall until I was on my knees. Upon their return, one "bad guy" made me do pushups again and then he put one foot on my back while I was doing them. Instead of playing their game until they exhausted me, I pretended to be exhausted and just laid down and grunted. Thatís when he leaned down next to my ear and said, "Why did you tell the policeman at the airport that your name was Donald E. Valentine when your identification says that you are William Rappa?" He shoved the form that I had completed for the police officer at the airport under my nose. I said, "My God guys, why didnít you ask me that right up front? You could have saved us all a lot of time and trouble, especially me. Look, Iíll level with you guys. Iím really Don Valentine, but Iím not here to repossess a car: Iím really here to steal a luxury car for my boss." Now they were happy campers and I finally got to sit down. Then they hit me with a long list of other questions: "Who are you working for?; How and when did you first meet your boss?; How does he pay you?; How do you contact him?; and How does he contact you?" I answered all of their questions, but I had to make up some of them as we went along. Then they told me, "Weíre going to turn you loose. Youíre going to steal your car and take it back to your boss just like before. One of our men will contact you in Knoxville. Youíre going to help us break up this bunch of thieves." I said, "Oh no, theyíll kill me if I do that," says I. The "bad guy" sitting across from me, pulled his revolver, pointed it at my nose, cocked it, and said, "Weíll kill you right now, if you donít." I said, "Good point. You got a deal." They escorted me back to my hotel. As we went through the police department, I spotted three other students awaiting interrogation. Putting everything in my room back like it was originally, without benefit of a screwdriver, took me a couple of hours. I finally got to bed at about five oíclock in the morning.

[Later, during the debriefing, I learned that a real criminal suspect had been sitting outside waiting his turn to be questioned. After listening to what happened to me, he confessed before they ever got him into the interrogation room. The interrogators succeeded in breaking the cover stories of most of our students. They also had a couple of students that broke down during interrogation and couldnít take anymore. The interrogators told the cadre, "That old sarge (meaning me) was the toughest one of the bunch. Nobody has ever stayed against the wall on their thumbs that long."]

Early Tuesday morning, I made my drop without encountering any of the "bad guys." Maybe that was because they did not know exactly when or where I was going to make that drop. Later that day, when I met my prospective agent at the bus station, I noticed the "bad guys" were all over the place. They were on us like ducks on a June Bug. As soon as we met, I took my prospect in tow and led the bad guys on a ring-around-the-rosy through a nearby shopping mall. Finally, I stopped to finish our meeting. At first I thought that I had lost them, but then I spotted them closing in again so I aborted the meeting and quickly arranged to meet my prospect at the same bar where we had met the first day. This time I beat him to the bar and chose the table and seat. This meeting went okay, we were not interrupted and I successfully recruited him to be an agent.

[During our critique after the exercise, I learned that they do not like Agent Handlers to meet agents in bus stations or train stations. They certainly made their point with me.]

That evening, in the lounge of my hotel, I wrote my secret letter and mailed it in the lobby without any interference from the "bad guys." The return address I selected at random from the local telephone directory. That night I went to bed early and nobody knocked on my door so I got a much-appreciated full nightís sleep.

The drop that I had already made contained the details on where, when, and how I would meet the courier so he could pass a message to me. Early on Wednesday morning, I met the courier. My "bona fides" were, "I would be standing at the bus stop at exactly the appointed time with a newspaper rolled up in my right coat pocket and reading a bus schedule," so thatís what I did. I had the bottom quarter of the schedule folded up like an envelope. The courierís bona fides were, "He would ask me, ĎWhat time does bus #6 arrive?í and then point at the schedule." As the courier pointed at the schedule, they were supposed to drop the message into that little envelope-like fold.

Except for me, no one else was anywhere near that bus stop. No one was in any of the cars that were parked near me and no one was in any of the windows facing me. I knew the "bad guys" would be somewhere nearby, I just couldnít spot them, but I remembered how effective those long-range cameras we had been shown were. They could be watching from anywhere.

About two minutes before drop time, I walked up to the bus sign and displayed my bona fides. A couple of seconds later, from the corner of my right eye, I noticed a pregnant lady get out of a car that was parked a couple of blocks away. That was the first time I had noticed that vehicle and now I saw the silhouette of at least one more person inside that car. The pregnant lady waddled across to my side of the street and made her way towards me. She was the only person walking in my direction. I thought, "They wouldnít." They did. She stopped and asked me, "When does bus #6 arrive?" and then pointed at my bus schedule. She had the note in her hand, but she didnít drop it into the flap. I whispered, "Honey, you must be new at this too. Just drop it in the flap at the bottom of the page and haul your pretty ass out of here." She did as I suggested and as soon as she departed, I turned and walked straight into the rest room in the gas station. Afterwards, I quickly locked the door so the Gestapo could not reach me until I had plenty of time to memorize that  message before I flushed it down the commode. I was surprised again ó no "bad guys" pounded on the door. I was positive they would try to jump me before I could memorize that note. I thought, "Maybe I have finally done something right."

The message told me where to pick up a package that had been hidden for me and where the signal sites were and what the signals were. That afternoon, I located the drop site on my city map and picked up the package with no problem. Again, there were no "bad guys" waiting to pounce on me. If they were there, they chose not to jump me.  Of course they had no idea what time I would be there.

Later that evening, I was contacted by phone and told to meet at our instructorís hotel room. They told me to bring the "bug" from the heat pump in my room. So there had been a bug there after all. He told us that our exercise had been cut short and that we were to check out of our hotel on Thursday morning and catch a flight back to Baltimore. Then, individually, our performance during the exercise was critiqued by the instructors and the "bad guys." After sitting through all of those critiques, I decided that, comparatively speaking, I hadnít done nearly as bad as I had previously thought. Compared to some of the other guys, I was practically another James Bond. So much for the "field work," now we faced a mountain of paperwork.

As soon as we arrived back at Fort Holabird, we were assigned a room complete with a mountain of paper, reference material, and typewriters where we could work on our reports. We had no time schedule and could work whenever we wanted. Everyone headed home, except for yours truly and big dummy went to work. Grabbing a stack of paper and a pen, I began writing down everything that I could remember from the very first day of the operation. Until I had recorded everything that I could remember, I wasnít about to start typing a report. It was as if my brain just had to vomit all of the  details onto paper right then. It took me twenty four hours. When I finally left, I was exhausted, but I felt like someone had just lifted a tremendous weight off of my shoulders. They simply gave us too many missions to accomplish on one trip. It was just too much information to retain for very long. That was one of the points that the instructors were trying to make, "keep it simple stupid!" I, for one, got their message loud and clear. They gave us about ten days to finish all of our reports.

In the meantime, I found another tavern that had a restaurant and a dance floor. It seemed like a nice quiet place to spend an evening or a Saturday afternoon. While en-route home one night, I stopped by there to have a drink. The only other customers in the place were two drunk marines in their dress blues so I sat at the opposite end of the bar. One was a sergeant major and the other was a gunnery sergeant. The sergeant major was drunker than the Gunny ó much drunker, and loud ó very loud. Heretofore, I had thought that gunnyís were the loudest most obnoxious things on earth except for CPOs [Chief Petty Officers]. Obviously I was wrong. The sergeant major got even louder and began ranting and raving about Vietnam and especially flower children, anti-Vietnam demonstrators, and draft-dodgers in particular. Because I was in civvies and obviously old enough to have served in the military, he assumed that I fit into one of those categories and so much as said so. I ignored him.

The bartender told me that they were the local marine recruiters. The sergeant major ranted on for about an hour or two. Meanwhile, I was hoping that some more customers would show up ó no such luck. The marines were sitting about ten stools away from me, but the sergeant major began inching closer to me all the while running his mouth. After I had consumed about four bourbons, he was standing at my left shoulder and you would have thought that he was talking to troops on the far side of a parade field. Finally he said, "Weíre loosing that war because of guys like you." I asked him, "What do you mean by that?" He answered, "Youíre afraid to fight." I asked, "What did you say?" He repeated it and I back-handed him across his mouth as hard as I could with my left hand while I was still seated. He sailed backwards across the aisle and did a back flip over the top of a table and chairs and landed in the corner on his face. He didnít get up so I spun around on the bar stool looking for his buddy, the Gunny, but he was still in the latrine. Meanwhile, both bartenders leaped over the bar and pounced on my back. It upset me because they grabbed me when he was the one that had instigated the fight, but I didnít fight them. They "ushered" me into the kitchen. The rather large lady that owned the place met us there with the largest butcher knife in the kitchen and informed me that I would have to leave. I said, "Its your place lady, but I didnít cause the problem. That loud mouth jar head did." And I left.

Shortly afterwards, they issued orders assigning us to our first MI duty stations. When the instructor called my name and held out the thick stack of orders for me, a cold chill ran down my spine. Before I read those orders, I knew where I was headed ó Vietnam. I was right, they were sending me back for my fourth tour of duty in that stinking war. It wasnít a premonition or vision or anything like that ó just that cold chill. Anyway, I assumed that feeling meant that I was a cooked-goose this time. After all, I figured if you went to Vietnam often enough, sooner or later your luck would run out. At least they gave me a 30 day leave plus travel time to the west coast en-route to my new duty station. So I packed up and headed south. As soon as I arrived in Knoxville, I learned that my mother was in the hospital, she had a serious heart problem. While I was visiting her, I learned that her only chance to survive was open-heart surgery. She needed two or three valves replaced in her heart. Because she was too poor to pay for the surgery and her insurance couldnít or wouldnít pay for it all, her doctor arranged to have the National Health Institute in Bethesda, Maryland perform the surgery. Bethesda was only about twenty miles or so from Washington, D.C.

Mom asked me to ask the army to let me stay stateside so I could be with her until after her operation. It seemed like a reasonable request to me so I telephoned the Department of the Army Personnel Section for all MI enlisted men at the Puzzle Palace in Arlington. They told me to get the Red Cross to contact them and they would see what they could do so I talked to a lady at the local Red Cross office. A short time later, MI Personnel told me that the army would be sending an amendment to my orders to my motherís home address. The Green Machine gave me a ninety day deferment with temporary duty with an MI

Detachment at Fort Meade, Maryland, but I didnít have to report for duty until after my thirty day leave expired. Fort Meade was about twenty or thirty miles away from DC and on the opposite side of DC as Bethesda.

In late August 1970, I drove mom and one of her nurse buddies to the DC area. Mom had arranged to stay with my uncle Jay Proffitt's brother and his family, who lived in that area, while she was being examined and making other arrangements to be admitted to NHIS for surgery. While she was waiting, she wanted to visit Arlington National Cemetery. In particular, she wanted to see President Kennedyís grave and the Change of Guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. After we had visited Kennedyís grave, I led the way up to the tomb and walked right past the grave of SFC Von Kliest. He and I had been on MSG Tom Kemmer's A Team in B Company before the 5th Group went to Vietnam.  That was before I volunteered for that super secret mission that C Company had which was canceled.  I was surprised because I didnít even know he had been killed.

She was very impressed with the change of guards ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. She asked me, "Do you walk guard like that, Don?" I laughed, "No mom. Nobody else in the army walks guard like that. Thatís strictly for show only." I guess she just knew that was the way her son would perform guard duty.  Mothers are like that.  After about a week, we returned to Knoxville and I just goofed off for a week or so, mostly with Babs [Barbara Ann Ball].

My step-father, who had been admitted to Lyons View Asylum years earlier, died in early September. In late September, I drove mom to Bethesda so she could be admitted. As soon as we got mom admitted to the hospital, I reported for duty at Fort Meade. That unit did not have a job for me, in fact, no one in that unit had a job that I could see, except for the clerk that made out the morning report each day. The three or four days that I was with them, I never saw more than four members of that unit and they were all lower ranking enlisted men who never seemed to leave the Orderly Room where they played a board game or cards all day. Before I went crazy from boredom, I called the MI Personnel Section again and asked them for a job. "Weíll check on it for you." I also asked the unit clerk, "Please find me a job. One a little closer to DC, if possible. Anything will do, just something to keep me busy." I even volunteered for duty as a Sky Marshal. That was a big deal at the time because several airliners had been hijacked. Commercial airliners flying on high risk routes were now being supplied with at least two armed men to protect against possible hijackers. They were using some military personnel as Sky Marshals, thatís why I had volunteered for it.

Finally, on the fourth morning when I checked in with the clerk, he told me, "Iíve found you a job. Itís with a unit in DC doing classified work." I said, "I donít care what it is, if they have a job for me, I want it." As soon as he had my orders ready, I headed for DC. The unitís headquarters was just inside the beltway in Arlington. When I reported for duty, the commanding officer informed me, "Your actual duty station will be at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, but for security reasons, you can not stay on Belvoir and your duty uniform will be civvies with coat and tie. You will have to find quarters off post." Their supply sergeant, Staff Sergeant Warren Hammer [not his real name], came to my rescue. He offered to share his one bedroom apartment with me, if I split the rent. His apartment building was located on US Highway One just about a mile south of the beltway. Belvoir was also on US Highway One, just a few miles farther south so I accepted. Warren arranged to have an army folding cot and bedding hauled to his apartment for me and we set up housekeeping together.

Warren was a short, chubby, good-natured guy with black hair. He was almost always in a good mood. When it came to housekeeping, Warren and I were exact opposites. Warren was meticulous and was forever underfoot cleaning house, cooking or washing dishes. It wasnít long before I nicknamed my roommate "Mama" Warren. He cooked regularly. He was a good cook and of course I split food costs with him, but he was just too meticulous around the house for me. However, Mama Warren and I got along great. Whenever I brought a lady home, Mama Warren was the most gracious host that you could imagine. He even offered his private bedroom to me on such occasions. However, I soon discovered that Mama Warren exaggerated my luck with the ladies to his fellow workers down at headquarters and every time I would have to go there for some reason, the ladies there would eye me strangely. One of the enlisted women that worked there struck up a conversation with me and told me that Mama Warren had told them all about me and my "many" lady friends.

Personally, I donít think having three different girlfriends within ninety days qualifies me as having "many" girlfriends. Especially since, I did not date any of them at the same time. They should have known some of the guys that I had served with in my former outfits. Dating two women at the same time wasnít for me, I had tried it about ten years earlier ó that didnít last long. For me, it was just too confusing and also I just never felt right about it. Besides, one woman can totally confound me all by herself: she doesnít need any help.


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