SP4 Dana Levy
100 day TDY to Ethiopia from Tompkins Barracks, Germany
I was a 19 year old college dropout and got drafted in July 1966. Went to Fort Ord, Ca. (as I was from San Diego) for basic and then Ft. Charleston, South Carolina for AIT. Both experiences were a culture shock to me. I was a petroleum storage specialist (gas pumper) in AIT.
I got orders for Germany in November as my older brother was in Korea and they wouldn't send two brothers to as war zone at the same time (no Viet Nam even though I requested it, DUMB ME). When I first got to Tompkins Barracks I had an interview with a warrant officer. He said my test scores were too high and he assigned me to the survey platoon instead of the motor pool. I was on OJT thereafter.
Worked out well as I did enjoy the challenge and the guys. We would go on per diem (16 dollars a day) around Germany taking pictures of bridges for the mapping and logistics people. We would practice surveying on maneuvers, combined NATO exercises, and paint our jeep every eweek. Spent allot of time getting out of work and hanging at the snack bar.
Termite mound in center of photo. Note the size comparison to the truck next to it.
Then one day the Lt. asked for volunteers to go to Ethiopia and do level work TDY for 100 days for the Army Mapping service. It sounded great to me. Again, what did I know. So off on a plane we went. First stop was in Beirut to gas up. Then on to Addis. Wow it was quite thrilling. Got to walk around town before we went to the headquarters. Got a razor shave at a barber shop. What sights. Backwards as all get out but never a dull moment. At orientation we were told of all the pitfalls that we might encounter here in Africa including safe sex practices and how not to get arrested.
A shot of my tent in the field.
Ethiopian soldiers, our first line of defense. They had a 30 caliber machine gun on the truck, a bazooka and BAR
We were given instruction on using the levels and story poles as we had only used T-2 Theodolites in Germany to shoot angles and elevations (even took shots on the stars at night sometimes). Learned how to do a C Check (curvature) to make sure the levels worked OK. The highlight of the week was when the supply plane would show up with ice cream and mail.
I drank a lot of Kool Aid as the water was loaded with chlorine. Food was good and we had a good cook. Ran out of meat one time and we shot and ate an Orox but it didn't suit me so I relied on the mediocre (at best) C Rations that we had. It was a laid back atmosphere and the officers (only one) didn't lord it over us.
We'd go out for the day and "plant concrete markers" for permanent bench marker (PBM) and come back a week later and the locals would dig them up to see what we had buried. There was always a competition as to who could get the farthest in one day. My crew never won but we did survive. I didn't know much about outdoor life and one day that we were off (Sunday) we took the 3/4 tons out and tried to knock over the big anthills that were everywhere. No success as they were really hard and tough.
STORIES AND MEMORIES
Me (on the left) and Bill Clark outside our barracks bldg.
Once we got to the field
(don't remember what party we were at) it was a new learning experience. Had to sleep in mosquito nets and keep our boots on the cot so snakes or other critters wouldn't take up residence.
ARMY day of the quadrangle showing off our stuff to the locals.
Here is a scan of the knife I bought in Addis upon my arrival, as did the rest of my buddies, and next to it is the knife given to me by the Ethi soldiers taken off the Somali prisoner the day I was shot at.
One day we went to a big river to swim. We had to post a lookout to watch for crocodiles. Sort of took the fun out of it, but still felt good. There were camel caravans who brought stuff to the locals at the far off locations. We stopped at one encampment and bought some Meloti beer. It was kept buried in the ground so it was sort of cool, not cold. No refrigeration. The locals were quite simple and basic but always nice to us. I thoroughly enjoyed all the Ethiopians that worked with us. Mostly kids (14 - 16 or so).
One day our party got shot at when we were surveying real close to the Somali border. We only had 12 gauge shotguns and the perimeter was guarded by Ethiopian soldiers. I couldn't get close enough to the ground. The one time we were shot at in basic training at the live fire
range just didn't compare. Later in the day the soldiers had captured two guys. They brought them to where we were and they were tied up and placed in our truck. I offered one of them a sandwich but he declined. One of our Ethi helpers said it was a ham sandwich and the Somali wasn't allowed to eat pork and we were a bunch of infidels and were going to hell anyway. My first exposure to international religious bitterness and intolerance. The soldiers gave me a knife that one of them had been carrying and I still have it today.
Another experience was with ostriches. They could be real mean when we messed with their
chicks and would try to kick us with their big middle toe. I brought an ostrich egg home with me (after drilling a hole and getting it clean inside, leaving just the shell) but it finally go broken by one of my sons at a show and tell at school. The most traumatic thing that happened to me was shooting a dik-dik. They were every where (like rabbits). So one day I thought I'd take target practice and shot one. When I got up close and picked it up it had tiny little horns and tiny
little hooves and large brown eyes. WHAT had I done? To this day I have never shot another living thing and never will.
I only went on R&R back to the Capitol city once. it was sort of boring. Saw crippled people all over the place dragging themselves along and begging. Ladies with big piles of sticks on their heads carrying them home to cook with. Smoggy and dusty too! Went to see the lions at the Imperial Palace. Spent most of the time back at headquarters lounging around and eating at the
snack bar. My buddies and I would venture out into the city at night and go to a dancing hall and drink and dance with the girls there. Stayed over night several times. Got the klap right before going back to Tompkins and had a large shot of penicillin. Boy it hurt to pee. On the plane going back to Germany it subsided and I was quite relieved to say the least. We flew on a large cargo jet and as much as I missed being in the field, it was fun to be back in Germany. It was quite the 100 day adventure!! Took a leave to England with one of my friends and enjoyed that trip a lot.
Got out at Ft. Dix in July 1968 and as many times as I wrote and felt FTA, I look back on the whole experience fondly now. I'm not in touch with any of the people from Germany or Ethiopia but would love to. Made spec 5 at the end and still they couldn't talk me into re-uping. I'm doing great now, a retired plumber and grandfather to 6.