New Guys and 360’s

by kfrego

My assignment in Okinawa ended in February of 1966 after two years outside of the continental United States. The travels and duties had been a great experience for a young man. I would miss the crew in Okinawa, but had some memories to recall the rest of my life.

With Vietnam going wide open the bases in Okinawa were maxed out on personnel and support activities. We frequently received new people right out of basic training stateside. Most of the new guys were teenagers just out of high school. They would arrive on base, go through a part day indoctrination, and be transported to their units by the base shuttle bus. Being in a small world, we always knew when they were coming. We gave them an unforgettable greeting upon arrival at the crash crew. There was about a hundred feet from where the new guys got off the shuttle bus to the door of the crash crew building. When we knew they were on the bus, five or six of us would hide behind the end of the building. When they covered half the distance carrying everything they owned, we would run at them and grab them. We screamed “He’s Mine, He’s Mine” as we tugged them back and forth between us. “You’re my replacement, You’re my replacement” we chanted at the new guys we yanked back and forth. Needless to say, the poor new guys had no idea what to hell was going on with these screaming idiots. They always ended up laughing it off as we introduced ourselves and welcomed them aboard.

I considered myself a pretty good driver. A city boy from Los Angeles who couldn’t even drive taught me a great trick with a car. Okinawa was full of little Datsun cars called skoshi cabs. They were everywhere. They were cheap. They were pretty fast if you could find an open road to wind them up. The drivers always hurried so they could deliver you and find another fare. We would catch a skoshi cab late in the evening when the traffic was light. We’d coax the driver to go fast. We would hit a stretch of road going fast with no oncoming traffic. The person in the front passenger seat would reach down between the little seats and yank the emergency brake on. The little skoshi cab would do several three hundred and sixty degree circles with the rear wheels locked before stopping. The driver would throw us out, we would pay him, and flag down the next skoshi cab to come down the road. We never hurt anyone, but we sure terrified some cab drivers.

My journey stateside took me to Kadena Air Force Base, Okinawa, to Yokota Air Force Base, forty five miles north of Tokyo, to March Air Force Base in Riverside, California. I reported to El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in Santa Ana, California. After my thirty days home leave I reported back to the crash crew at El Toro.

The Marine Corps was serious business…………….but there was always time for a little fun.