(IJCH) Hazardous Duty — Anything For A Buck?
IJCH — Inside JaiChai’s Head (Meaning: My Warped, Personal Opinions and Musings)
From the Author:
I am JaiChai.
And if I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting you before, I’m delighted to make your acquaintance now.
I invite you to interact with everyone, learn, and have as much fun as possible!
For my returning online friends, “It’s always great to see you again!"
Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay (HDIP): Anything For A Buck?
The events in this article are based on a few strange — but true — life experiences during my 24 years of active duty in the U.S. military. It documents some of the weird things that my team (military diver/jumper/shooter types) would volunteer to do whenever we had too much time on our hands.
Volunteering for Extra Pay
I was always pretty open-minded about extra pay.
What the Hell, I got’ta work anyway, right? Why not get a little extra for just a little extra misery?
Meet Mr. Freeze
One time I volunteered for Experimental Pay that involved doing a cold-weather mission “while wearing a core body temperature data collection device”.
The data was needed to engineer better anti-exposure gear for missions where hypothermia was a real danger; and also to design nutritionally sound, cold-weather MRE’s (Meals, Ready to Eat) individualized to the size and activity of each operator.
In reality, the term “…while wearing a core body temperature data collection device” was the official way of saying that I and my whole team were doing our jobs in a very cold region with rectal thermometers firmly lodged up our butts and anchored in place by an inflatable balloon (bulb) at the end of each probe.
Needless to say, it was a hassle to take a dump — and rather painful if you forgot to deflate the bulb!
Ejection Seat 2.0
Another time, when the military was designing new ejection seat trainers for their jet pilots, I volunteered for ejection seat training duty. In the old days, the precursors to the 9E6 ejection seat trainers used live charges instead of pneumatic propulsion and hydraulic brakes.
The Research and Development department needed test subjects (human guinea pigs) at the low end of the anthropomorphic scale — a small person like me — to test the new design’s affects. The trainer trials were deemed “4.0” — a resounding success.
Funny thing? The fact that I shrunk 0.25 inches because of spinal disc compression was not “deemed significant”; and therefore, not included in the final — justification for future government funding — test data results.
Luckily, a few weeks later I regained my full, manly height of 5'6".
One more Extra-Pay Duty story?
Testing “Kevlar Light”: More Protection, Less Weight?
A study was ordered to measure the effectiveness of a new prototype of body armor (Kevlar).
The design seemed revolutionary. The latest high-tech composites were used and individual cells within the material were arranged in a honeycomb-like matrix. The prototype was 30% less in weight and was 20% better at stopping a wide range of small arms fire — a soldier’s dream.
It had passed all preliminary tests and was ready to be tested in an emergency egress over water (e.g., from a downed helicopter into the ocean). I got first dibs on this assignment because…well, mainly because no one else volunteered!
That should’ve been a sign?
Anyway, I strapped into the 9D5 NAWSTP (Naval Aviation Water Survival Training Program) helicopter emergency multi-egress/crash simulator.
The simulator resembles a giant oil drum. The inside “cabin” is about the size of the cabin of a troop transport helo. It is suspended above a small, training tank (pool) by thick, steel cables. When the operator/engineer is prompted, he releases tension on the supporting cables and the device slams into the water (just like a real helicopter would during an emergency crash landing into the ocean).
Then, as all top-heavy helicopters do, the device begins to turn upside down.
As a Water Survival Instructor, I knew and taught all the correct egress procedures thousands of times. I remained strapped into the seat.
I took a nice, long breath before the water level reached my mouth and nose. I kept a little internal air pressure in my nose to keep the water from filling up my sinuses.
[It’s always amusing to me how a huge Marine can morph into a panicky, little baby when confronted with an underwater emergency — simulated or not.
The disorientation and water up the nose causes many rough and tumble, macho, overly muscled Marines to panic, unbuckle too early, and get trapped in the trainer.
I think the only other thing that produces more sheer terror in these finely tuned, mindless killing machines [translated: first-wave, canon fodder] is the sight of an immunization needle. I $hit you not! I’ve had many a monster Marine pass out when I waved a needle and syringe in front of him! It’s hilarious and not really a problem.
My only concern is that the big boy doesn’t hurt himself with his fall to the ground, slump into the chair, or the instant, involuntary prone position on the gurney.
After a nice laugh, I just inject the passed out Marine with the originally prescribed medication, break an ammonium nitrate ampule under his nose, and tell the now awake killer that the brain surgery/castration/rectal exam is over and done with — no problem.]
Back to the helo crash simulation.
Inverted, I waited for all violent motion to stop. I took a handhold of the seat beside me and reached for my buckle.
It was stuck/jammed. No worries. I’d taught the recommended procedures for this type of problem to my survival students and done its demonstration enough times to do it with my eyes closed — easy, peasy.
I hit the locking mechanism with my fist, making sure it was fully locked down; then tried to open the buckle again. It opened. Cool.
But the normal smooth, underwater weightlessness I’d experienced in the past was replaced with a vicious surge to the surface. Like a bug on a car’s windshield, I was plastered on the upside down deck of the simulator.
The new, “Wonder Armor” that everyone was raving about freakin’ floats!
[I later found out how the new prototype attained its lightweight , yet strong capabilities — a fair volume of air bubbles was infused between the cells in the material. WTF?]
In fact, the new body armor was so buoyant that I was stuck, upside down on the deck of the 9D5. Even worse, the rest of the gear I was wearing got snagged on everything in my egress path. Cargo hooks, Helo frame, emergency gear, stokes stretchers and seats proved to be just one more thing to disentangle myself from before I could leave the simulator.
I’m not sure how long I’d been holding my breath. Activity and emotional state can severely cut your breath holding time. Although I had an unnaturally long breathhold, I was beginning to “dry gulp” to get a few more seconds. Outside the trainer, the safety diver, a buddy of mine, motioned the “Need Assistance?” signal.
I smiled and waved him off.
Finally, I said “f*ck it,” grabbed my HEEDs (helicopter emergency egress device — a small SCUBA bottle the size of a large café latte at Starbucks), purged the mini-regulator of water, and took a breath of compressed air.
This was always a last resort because ascent to the surface and breathing had to be controlled afterwards. On a breath hold, one could rule out the dangers of DCS (decompression sickness) and AGE (arterial gas embolism — the more serious condition when a bubble travels through the blood vessels and lodges in some rather inconvenient places; namely the heart or brain).
Oh well, it was going to be a longer day than I expected.
Without the immediate need for air, I methodically doffed the body armor, and hooked it around my arm.
I looked at my buddy and waved my middle finger at the new “Wonder Vest”. My buddy took out his regulator, smiled, and stuck his thumb in his mouth. Then he simulated poking himself in the ass with it.
The meaning was obvious: “F*ck me!”
He was never wearing that Kevlar in a helicopter flying over the water!
And neither will I.
“Really Appreciate You Stopping By. Truly hope to see you again!”
About the Author:
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Believing that school was too boring, he dropped out of High School early; only to earn an AA, BS and MBA in less than 4 years much later in life — while working full-time as a Navy/Marine Corps Medic.
In spite of a fear of heights and deep water, he performed high altitude, free-fall parachute jumps and hazardous diving ops in deep, open ocean water.
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After 24 years of active duty, he retired in Asia.
Since then, he’s been a full-time, single papa and actively pursuing his varied passions (Writing, Disruptive Technology, Computer Science and Cryptocurrency — plus more hobbies too boring or bizarre for most folk).
He lives on an island paradise with his girlfriend, teenage daughter and two dogs.
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“My mind was a terrible thing to waste…” — JaiChai