Injuries and Things

NCS Agana, Guam map

This is probably going to be my only post about my time in Guam, (Aug. 1977 – Apr. 1979) but not because I didn’t have any fun there. It’s a sad but true fact that members of the military services were not particularly well liked or well treated back in the 60s, 70s and much of the 80s. Some places were worse than others as far as that goes, and Guam and Hawaii were two places where the military was especially disliked at the time. I don’t know how it is now.

During my 20 months on Guam I never found a little corner bar type place (like Noah’s Ark in Okinawa) where military personnel were welcome and I never met anybody else who did either. So, most of my spare time there was spent playing softball and golf (which I played as often as I could afford), and most of our trips to beaches for cook-outs and frizbee and stuff were to ones on military bases (mostly at Agana itself or at Pati Point on Anderson AFB).

But . . . these posts are about fun and/or funny things that happened while I was in the Navy, and I’m not going to get into the whys of that shit . . . so enough about that.

I lived in the barracks at Agana, Guam for the whole time I was stationed there, but I worked at a transmitter site called Barrigada.

NTF Barrigada Guam 1

NTF Barrigada, Guam

Most of the guys I hung out with for my whole time there also worked at Barrigada, and five of us (Mark, Ed, Joe, Benny and I) spent a couple of seasons in a bowling league. We called ourselves ‘The Pretenders’, the running joke being because we were pretending we knew how to bowl, but actually the name was influenced by the Jackson Browne album of the same name.

I don’t recall ever actually repairing a single transmitter the whole 18 months I was stationed in Okinawa, but at Barrigada something clicked. I don’t exactly what, when or how it happened, it just did. I was especially good at the power supply, IPA (intermediate power amp), and PA stages.

NTF Barrigada Guam 2

AN/FRT-40 100KW HF Transmitter

Benny Allen started calling me IPA Bob, and one of the Radiomen (I don’t remember his real name, but he called himself Doctor Touchenstein – Dr. T for short) started calling me SuperTech (in a cartoon-ish sort of way). While I secretly liked both names, I wasn’t real fond of being called them out loud. Benny and I could roughly tune one of those to the right place (using the black knobs on the second and third sections) before powering them up just by knowing the frequency ahead of time.

Those are some of the ‘Things’ from the title.

As far as the ‘Injuries’ go the lesser of the two happened when I was playing softball a couple of months before I left. I hit a slow-rolling infield grounder at the time and the first baseman was blocking the base as I got there, so I had to step over his leg in order to tag the base. I was safe by just a bit, but I turned my ankle out sideways as I tagged first and heard a really icky crunching sound as I did. I thought I might have broken it at the time, but it turned out that sound was just a couple of ligaments being stretched out way too far.

The doctor said later that I probably would have been better off if I had broken it. It would have healed more cleanly. Since VA medical coverage does not include ‘sports medicine’, especially for recreational leagues, I spent about a week on crutches and about a month with ankle wraps before I could walk semi pain free.

The second ‘Injury’ was actually the first – time wise – and happened at one of the few off-base places we visited often—Talofofo Falls.

Talofofo Falls

This place appears to be protected now, but back then people visited and spent the day at the falls on a regular basis.

One of the things all visitors to the falls were warned about right away was that there was a fairly large rock about eight feet under the surface right in the middle of the pond below the falls. While diving from the large rock on the left side of the falls (from this vantage) was not strictly prohibited, it was highly recommended that only shallow type dives be attempted.

But I, in my 22+ years of wisdom at the time, decided to try a 1½. I aimed (or thought I did, anyway) away from the rock, and while I did manage to complete an acceptable dive, I also grazed the rock with my head. I still had my hands in front of me, and did catch the rock with them first, but I couldn’t quite keep myself from grazing it.

It didn’t hurt at all, and I thought I was okay as I got out of the pool. Mark was complaining that I hadn’t given him a warning I was going to do that, so he didn’t get a picture of it. While he was doing that a woman walking by said, “You’re ear is bleeding.”

I’m like, “Really?” and started feeling the top of my head because that’s where I hit the rock. It turned out the young woman was a nurse or something, so she looked at the wound and said I was going to need some stitches, and should do so immediately. So we had to leave after being there for only about 20 minutes or so (which caused a fair amount of more bitching from Mark).

I finished the beer I’d already opened as we packed up to leave. Turned out the nearest military hospital was quite a ways away (about two more beers) and by the time I got there and it was determined I’d need four stitches, it was also determined I didn’t need any anesthetic—and they were right. That didn’t hurt either.

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R. S. Leergaard

US Navy veteran and writer of stories. Blogger of things.

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