Friday, June 8, 2012

How I Became Alaskan Folklore.

Alaska. The 49th State to join the United States of America. When this occurred on January 3, 1959, I was only 10 days shy of 8 years of age growing up on the south side of Monroe, Louisiana on Georgia Street. I was in Mrs. McMurphy’s second grade class at Barkdull Faulk Elementary School and quiet frankly can’t recall our teacher telling us about this historic event taking place. I just simply grew up knowing that Alaska was the 49th State in our Union and Hawaii was the 50th and it occurred in my lifetime.

Fast forward twelve or so years later to November 1971. I volunteer for the draft and joined the United States Army asking for a tour in Vietnam. I remember them telling me at the recruiting office the best way to get there was to become part of the Military Police Corp or Artillery… Well, what would you think a hard headed; brain damaged 20 year old class A personality type that had worked as a radio operator for the Louisiana State Police the last 18 months of his life would jump on? Oh you bet! I was going to be an MP. Sure, I thought about the pride and glory the Green Machine had to offer if I pursued a career in Aviation or even one of those high tech fields like becoming a snake eater?  Special Forces, Airborne and other career fields intrigued me, but no one was getting six years of my life.  Two was my limit so I made my choice.

I planned the next couple of years of my life to perfection, as I not only wanted to serve my country, but knew as well there were excellent benefits a veteran could use to his advantage down the road.  I entered Fort Polk, Louisiana as a raw basic training recruit. Vietnam was “drawing down” and my basic training company was the first in the Brigade to put soldiers through basic combat training without emphasis on Vietnam. I arrived at Fort Polk the day before Thanksgiving in 1971 and was locked up in some fenced area with concertina wire on the top of an 8ft fence called the reception battalion. Guess where I spent Thanksgiving, the Friday, Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving? Right there in that God Forsaken place with a million unknown faces and personalities with one pair of shoes, socks, drawers, jeans, tee shirt and shirt to my name!  I stood in line two hours at a bank of telephones so I could call home on Thanksgiving day.  I got my wonderful and always "cheerful"  mother on the telephone right in the middle of the Ferguson Thanksgiving Feast.  Every one was there and were having a wonderful time!  "To bad you aren't with us, son!"  Not the standard "we miss you," or  "we are thinking about you!"  No, nothing at all like that.  My mom was rubbing in the fact I had to leave for the Army two days before Thanksgiving.  Well, it worked.  I had an attitude and when I ripped the seat of my only pants from crotch to the small of my back in a friendly football game on Thanksgiving Day, you can imagine my attitude, say around Friday evening??? What in the Hell have I gotten myself into! I joined the Army! Why am I in prison?  I'm surprised I didn't didn't kill someone after going insane over that long weekend!

Well, I finally was assigned to Echo Company, 4th Battalion, 1st Basic Combat Brigade that following Monday and a new chapter began to unfold for me as I met my new family or platoon that I would live with the next 8 weeks or so.  Little did any of us know, but our entire company were guinea pigs for the Army’s new training program. Christmas comes around half way through Basic Combat Training. They let us go home for 10 days for Christmas and New Years! We come back and finish training and I’m expecting to get orders to MP school. Nope. They send me home for two more weeks saying the Army is sending me to Hawaii and awarding me my Military Occupation Skill or MOS based on my civilian past as a “dispatcher” with the Louisiana State Police. I was to report back to Fort Polk and then fly away to Hawaii for the remainder of my military obligation. Well, I realized Vietnam was out, so imagine my surprise when I reported back to my old unit E-4-1 and found out I was going to Alaska and not Hawaii!  I had come to grips that I belonged to the Army and they could do with me whatever they chose to do, so gear up.  Whatever befell me would not last longer than two years! 

After arriving at my port-of-call, McChord Air Force Base in Washington State, another long wait ensued as I patiently awaited my number to board a Military Airlift Commands C-141 Star lifter for my passage to Alaska. I flew, riding backwards all the way to my destination. I arrived at Elmendorf Air Force Base on March 3, 1972. As the back of the aircraft opened the true southerner in me became obvious. Shuffling to deplane my eyes glimpsed the snow covered peaks of the Chugiak Mountains that surrounded Anchorage, Alaska and my first breath of Arctic air froze the hair in my nose as I froze in my tracks to take in what was happening to me. Rudely I was pushed from behind and a stern “keep moving” was barked somewhere in the crowd as my mind tried to comprehend the beauty of what I had never in my life seen before. Every where I looked was stunningly beautiful! And how can I explain a comfortable cold!?! I came to find out, that a comfortable cold unlike the harsh cold of the South is simply cold air without humidity! 

I boarded a military shuttle bus for my ride to my new duty station, Fort Richardson, Alaska which was next door to Elmendorf AFB where I had just landed. I was to in process and be assigned my duty station. Now remember, the Army assigned me my MOS or military occupational skill from my civilian job as a radio “dispatcher” with the Louisiana State Police. In Alaska, in the Army, that translated to “Forklift Operator” in a warehouse! I became indignant with the Spec5 that was in processing me and told him not no, but heck no was I a forklift operator… I had volunteered for the Military Police and was a Radio Operator with the Louisiana State Police for almost 2 years before I volunteered for the draft.  I'm telling you folks, I was pretty put out with my situation. Here was a little skinny southern boy a million miles from any source of security growling at a seasoned veteran of some Army I was wondering if I really wanted to belong too!  He leaned back and looked at me as my indignation became a whine and then a plea for help and asked me one question. “Private, can you type?” I blinked, caught his glare and said, “Well, yes, actually I can?”

Some 15 minutes or so later a spy looking dude *literally* slips into the personnel office with a tie and trench coat complete with dark sunglasses and addresses this Spec5 that was handling my crisis. They both looked over at me and immediately realized I was already well aware of their conversation and knew it had everything to do with this particular Private with a southern drawl.  What ever they were saying I wanted them to know I was sure interested as the back of my mind was screaming, "What in the world is going on…?"  This spy type individual had my paperwork in his hands as he comes over in his civilian attire and asked if he could talk to me for a few minutes. Well, of course! Please, talk to me or give me some poison because I am not going to spend two years up here driving a forklift in some warehouse full of igloo blocks! He already knew I did not have a criminal background because of my State Police employment and he was very interested in how well I could type. I think I said something like, “better than you,” as I broke out in a grin and he extended his hand and said welcome to the United States Army’s CID Command. That is USACIDC or United States Army Criminal Investigation Division Command.

That day I was awarded a 75B MOS or Clerk Typist by my favorite Spec5 who helped fill out a Top Secret Security Clearance and for the next several months I final typed through 7 carbons investigative reports for 6 Criminal Investigators in a room just large enough for one person. I knew what the Generals wife was thinking! I was guarded treasure.  They took excellent care of me as I was promoted from E2 to E4 in less than three months! Life was grand and the investigators loved me because I was an excellent typist. I was more than they had imagined and I got anything I wanted. I was the first clerk in the Alaskan Army to get an IBM electric typewriter but there was this one lingering problem that kept haunting me. I joined the Army to be a Military Policeman NOT a Clerk Typist.

Military Policemen in the United States Army do a lot more than just patrol the Army Post answering calls, working traffic accidents and writing speeding tickets. Around Anchorage and several other important cities up in the remote mountains were missile sites that hid the Nike Hercules missiles that were placed there by the U.S. Government to knock Soviet Aircraft out of the sky if they ever invaded our country. These missile sites had armed soldiers that protected them. There MOS was of course, Military Police. They would helicopter into these remote missile sites for two weeks at a time and train and provide security in temperatures down to100 below zero at times.  And as fate would have it, there was a shortage of these MP’s...  The United States Army Alaska or USARAL was given permission by the Department of the Army to conduct a 6 week MOS awarding Military Police School at Fort Richardson, Alaska! Guess who was given permission to attend that school if I promised to keep my typing responsibilities up in the evenings? I remained the property of the CID, but allowed to attend the MP school where I graduated 7th in the class and number one in defensive driving and the .45 cal US Army model 1911 semi auto handgun or firearm of the Military Policeman! And this story has now found its foothold. 

There were 50 of us that attended this special class and upon graduation, 49 were assigned to various Nike Hercules missile batteries throughout the State of Alaska. As for me, well,  I returned to my little cubby hole typing CID reports with a brand new MOS, 95B or Military Police.  I could now return home and kinda lie that I was an MP and not a clerk typist.  However, because of the close working relationship with the Military Police Company and the CID, I was allowed to work patrol on weekends and other free time as did the assigned “line duty” military policemen. Those duties included answering radio calls for domestic disturbances, criminal misbehavior, wild animals, traffic accidents, road monitoring, which is making sure civilian traffic can traverse mountain roads to the ski resort ran by the military is safe, etc, etc… Another job that is shared with all of us is Gate Duty. The Military policemen are generally the first contact people have with military protocol when entering a military facility.  I enjoyed this job. It was one of pride and you had to look good as well as be able to communicate effectively. Imagine that. Me? An Ego? But there I was. Usually assigned on a rotational basis with the other line MP’s to Ft. Richardson’s Gate One! If the President of the United States were to visit Fort Richardson, that would be the gate he would come in. And there was Gate Three.  Oh yes, Gate Three!  I will get to that one.   Gate Two was between Elmendorf AFB and Fort Richardson, so it was only there in physical existence but never manned by Soldiers or Air Police.

Gate Three was 10 miles from nowhere and was a remote entrance of the base seldom used by anyone except civilian employees and very few military vehicles. Because it was an entry point to a major military base off a major civilian highway, it was manned by Military Police. Usually just one. One poor, often cold MP who was left alone for hours at a time by himself with only a telephone and radio walkie talkie. The Gate was well lighted at night and was large enough to handle 4 people for short periods of time if they were standing. It had two slanted plate glass windows that would deflect headlights where the MP could be clearly seen when entering the Army Post as well as leaving. The MP manning the gate could see you easily coming and going and any driver could see him. There were two sliding doors on each side of the gate that allowed person(s) easy access or egress to the gate if paperwork, i.e.; passes etc were needed. In all reality, Gate Three was so far out from the Army Post itself, that you had more visits from moose and arctic foxes than you did people. When your turn came to work Gate Three, you hated it. You closed up, turned on your heater and would sit there wishing someone would come by; call you, wave or something… You just sit there with all of this built up testosterone and energy looking around at everything but really nothing.  Then you notice them.  Is that?  No, it can't be. Are those really bullet holes in the bottom of this guard house that have been fired through the metal foot railings? I could not believe what I was seeing!  Bullet holes? I remember getting down on my hands and knees and looking up close and personal at not one but several 45 cal size bullet holes that was in more than just the metal foot railings!  I was absolutely amazed!   I remember laughing at just what kind of idiot would discharge their weapon out here at this God forsaken spot!  They did not have bullet holes in the base of Gate One! I know. I made it a point to look.

Eventually the CID Command found a replacement for me in the typing department and allowed me to transfer into the 56th MP Company full time. I was one happy camper! I was finally on track to gain law enforcement experience that I could carry back into civilian life.  My plans were to return to college in Criminal Justice and maybe become a State Trooper or Police Officer somewhere. I took my turns at Gate’s One and Three like all of the others and wrote my share of tickets and investigated many auto accidents. Some of the worse were when automobiles would hit Moose crossing the roadways. Actually shot my first Moose with my .45 that had all legs broken because of an automobile hit. Another responsibility of the Military Police was putting the United States Flag up every morning and taking it down and folding it every afternoon. I loved pulling the Stars and Stripes up the flag pole in the early mornings as reveille was played and cars stopped at 7am. I remember the ice falling off the long rope as I hoisted the flag and her beauty unfolded in the crisp Arctic air. Many times I would get tears of pride in my eyes as she gained altitude to a spot higher than any other on the Post.

I also learned a very good life lesson one morning at Fort Richardson that I shared many times with law enforcement peers over the next few decades, and I would like to share it with you. It was one of the first times I was alone on patrol.  I had my own MP vehicle and I was armed with that .45 Colt Automatic pistol. I was one of those proud, egotistical, full of crap, look at me, who's chest was so pushed out the top three buttons were undone.  I was the text book definition of trouble?  Have you ever seen one of those kinda young cops?  Well, on this particular day it was snowing very hard and I looked and saw a pick up truck traveling “to fast for existing road conditions” down MY roadway. Oh yes. It was my road. I was the police! This soldier was not going to get away with this violation of Alaska’s Motor Vehicle Laws as long as the 56th MP's had me to enforce their laws!  I turned on my red lights and stopped this aggressive violator and approached his vehicle demanding he step out of his truck into the falling snow so “we” could “conduct business” face to face. The window is lowered and I’m offered drivers license and  an ID card through the window. I tell him again, "Please step out of the vehicle, Driver."  The lone occupant shakes the information cards at me and for some reason that action just “pushed” my ego button, as I had a knee jerk reaction. I said something like, “I told you to get out of that truck” as I opened the door and grabbed a hand full of soldier and pulled him out from behind the wheel and put him against the camper shell of his pickup. Oh was I on a high! So easy as his hands went up and he leaned against the camper waiting for my next instruction. Instead, as if in unison, I noticed on his right shoulder his military insignia or unit patch. It was an arrowhead with three lightening bolts through it with “Special Forces” and "Airborne" across the top.  The patch was melting into my mind while at the same time screaming warnings that this was a Green Beret Soldier with maybe three or more tours in Vietnam that I had up against this truck!  As my mind began the slow process of screening this information to me I heard him say in a very calm voice of words, “If you touch me again, I’m going to hurt you!” DING!  It finally registered in my restricted mind that I was had. Here I found myself the aggressor. My next move probably did more for me than any text book I could have ever read and simply sat a standard for me the rest of my life. I simply said, “I’m sorry Sarge, I’m being a total asshole!” He stood up, looked at me, smiled and apologized for driving to fast because he was late for formation and his first sergeant was a real horses ass! I told this soldier to proceed and he patted my shoulder and said, “lets have a beer at the NCO club,” as he got into his truck and left. And he probably could have hurt me had he chose. He did not threaten me.  Simply stated a clear fact of what he was going to do if I kept acting the way I was acting. From that day forward I knew what it meant to treat someone the way I wanted to be treated. With respect.

I also had to learn some lessons the hard way. Regardless of how well I could drive on ice and snow, even with the awards I had received to prove it, ice was still slippery. If you parked your MP vehicle on an icy mountain road with the slightest of incline and got out of it?  it would simply start to slide without provocation down the icy slope you left it on until it hits something that is large enough to stop it. This was usually found in the form of a snow bank or a tree. I was lucky. My vehicle plowed into a snow bank. Of course the Lieutenant that came to investigate my incident did not attempt to listen to my explanation as he had me locked at attention at 25 below zero chewing on me when I interrupted him and said, “Sir, your Car!” I found extreme humor in watching him try to catch his vehicle as it slid away from him.  I did not say a thing as my stupid grin said it all, but neither vehicles suffered damage.  I know he laughed about the incident with his officer buddies because it was really funny but he simply could not share that with an Specialist E-4 as we both stood their watching a wrecker pull our vehicles out of that snow bank. I continued on up to the ski resort checking the rest of the road only to have it closed because of the hazardous conditions and he went back down the mountain to Fort Richardson where he belonged.

Another thing the MP Company did that defied common sense logic in a 20 year old was this. The MP Armory gave us our assigned Colt .45 automatic pistol and a magazine of five rounds of ammunition. You were allowed to put the magazine into the pistol, but you could not chamber a round which would allow you to “discharge a bullet out of the pistol,” if you pulled the trigger.  I tread cautiously here for readers that might not understand the function and operation of the semi automatic 1911 Colt .45 cal Pistol. The rounds of ammunition are in a magazine that you insert in the handle of the pistol from the butt of the weapon. It locks in and is carried there in what is known as condition 3. If you have to discharge the pistol in an emergency to protect your life or even kill an injured moose, you must pull the firearm out of your holster, pull the entire top of the pistol back in a sliding motion where it picks up the round of ammunition in the magazine.  As you release the slide, it chambers the round and cocks the firearm making it able to fire! This is critical that you, my reader, understand how this firearm functions. If you don’t, you will miss the entire point as we continue. From a safety standard, it is better, according the US Army, not to have a round chambered.  However, if one had to use his weapon to protect his own life, not having a round chambered could in fact cause them to lose their life if a perpetrator were to have a firearm pointed at them or even attack them with a knife!

So I find myself some months later in my patrol unit as the dogwoods have already bloomed in Louisiana but snow is still present in quantity in Alaska. My radio number is called and I answer as my Sergeant ask me to proceed to Gate Three and relieve the MP assigned that gate so he can take my vehicle back to the Post dinning facility to eat lunch. As I exchange places with him I watch him disappear down the long straight road as far as I can see him. I am alone again at this desolate spot. It is a very beautiful day and not really cold. I look around and see nothing but a couple of moose moving a few hundred yards from the gate and I begin to “think.” Dear God.  At this exact point in my life it did not cross my mind that idiots also think and thinking without common sense is dangerous especially when those thoughts running through your mind have a logical solution, even if it violated military regulations! This makes perfect sense!  Why should I not put this thought process to practice. What if I had to pull my pistol from my holster and shoot someone to save my life? How quickly could I actually un-holster my weapon, slide the top of the weapon back, chamber a round at the same time cocking the firing mechanism, raise the weapon, aim and then fire at a target intending to harm me? Well, I then concluded, what better place than the desolate Gate Three to find out!  Alone out here by myself, I could practice this until it becomes a natural reaction?  Post Script here:  An idle mind is the Devil's workshop!  Has this crossed any of your minds yet?  Allow me to continue...  Well, I remove my .45 cal pistol out of its holster, press the magazine release button dropping the magazine containing the five rounds of ammunition from the butt of the weapon.  I take said magazine with the five rounds of ammunition and lay it right in front of me on the counter of Gate Three at arms length.  Being the trained Expert Marksman I am, I then slide the breach all the way back to make sure there is not a round in the chamber.  Confirmed clear, I pull the trigger and hear the metallic "click" as the hammer hits the firing pin. I smile at myself and return my now safe and empty firearm to my holster.  I am now ready to practice my fast draw.

A car pulls through the Gate entering the Army post and I wave them through. As they disappear down the long road toward Fort Richardson, I get into a comfortable standing position and reach for my pistol. I draw it with my right hand and as I bring it up I grasp the top of the weapon with my left hand sliding the breach to the back of the pistol cocking the weapon and had the magazine containing the ammunition been in the pistol, would grab a round from the inserted magazine and chamber it rendering the firearm capable of firing.  Releasing the slide I extend the weapon at arms length, holding it in a proper firing position, take careful aim at my selected target and pull the trigger, “click” and then re holster. Are you getting the sequence down? Draw the weapon with my right hand, pull or slide the top slide or breach of the weapon to the rear of the firearm, cocking the weapon and picking up a round of ammunition from the magazine, which upon its release chambers the round enabling the weapon to fire. Pointing the weapon at the intended target in a good firing position and pulling the trigger, I smile in satisfaction upon hearing the metallic "click."   That’s what I need to practice. Over and over again. Draw, cock, aim, click. Re holster. Draw, cock, aim, click. Faster this time. 50 times, 100 times… I am getting good at this… Smooth now,  I tell myself… Then a familiar sound… The whop whop report of helicopter blades popping the air as is passes in close proximity to Gate Three!  I scan the area for approaching cars or by chance human beings and find nothing or no one!   I bolt out the side of the guard shack at a dead  run toward the side of the road. I leap into the air toward a snow bank and as I jump I draw my pistol, cock, aim at the helicopter and "click" as I disappear into the snow! Got him as I get out of the snow bank and brush snow from my uniform!  This is actually true entertainment and excellent practice… Draw, cock, aim, click!! I shoot a couple of moose… Oh yeah… And the occasional cars that pass in and out of the Post.  As the driver approaches my Gate they see a Military Policeman with perfect posture as I acknowledge their coming and going.  What they do not know is I am positioning myself to "draw, cock, aim and click" on some piece of their vehicle as it passes even with my sliding doors!  I smile as I think of the driver possibly thinking, 'that sure is a clean cut Military Policeman in the plate glass window of the guard house.'  I wave them through the gate and as they get even with me, I go through the process. Draw, cock, aim, click as I focused on a license plate or tail light as they drive away from me. I am deadly. I have this down to an art form. I have drawn this .45 cal weapon from my holster, cocked this weapon, aimed it and clicked the trigger over 200 times if not more, killing helicopters, cars, moose and countless murderers that were attacking me while my loaded magazine lays safely on the counter of Gate Three within hands reach. All of this while waiting for my lone peer to return from his lunch at the dining facility while I was taking his place at the assigned Gate 3 before allowing me a return to my patrol duties.

As I look down the long road toward Fort Richardson I see an MP car coming… No radio contact so I am convinced it is the MP returning to his post with my assigned vehicle. Time to go back to work so I casually pick up my magazine of five rounds laying on the counter of Gate Three at arms length and slip it back into the butt of my .45 cal pistol which was already snugly secured in my holster. Let me ask you a quick question here.  Do you remember putting your keys into your pocket this morning when you got out of your car? Or in your purse?  Are you sure they are there?  Your keys. Did you lock the door of your car?  Turn the A/C up at home so it would not run all day?  All of these things are at arms length you know.  Do you remember performing any of these menial task?  Well anyway, the MP vehicle I saw approaching was not the returning gate guard in my unit, it was my Sergeant.  As he circled my Gate, I was told  that the Gate MP was on the way but had to stop and do something at headquarters and would be another 30 minutes or so getting here. He asked if I needed anything and I told him no. As we finished our conversation he started heading back toward Fort Richardson on that long straight stretch of roadway. As I watched him disappear I saw an Orange Volkswagen approaching my gate to exit the post. Instinctively as from many reps of recent practice, I got into the perfect posture for my continued practice quick draw. I acknowledged the driver as he exited the post and as he drove past my door and hit that "react spot" I drew my weapon, cocked and selected the easily displayed license tag as my target.  Everything, oddly, seemed to be in slow motion.  My draw was crisp as I pulled the weapon into a firing position cocking the weapon with my left hand.  With both eyes open I search for and locate an object of focus as my deliberate actions are steady and smooth.  As the vehicle comes into clear view through the slanted glass window I close my left eye and with careful precision focus on sight alignment as I pulled the trigger... “BBLLAAAMMMM” as the firearm recoiled and launched a 230 grain .45cal round at its intended target, just as it was designed to do! As my ears were deafened by the sound of the exploding cartridge round in the closed confines of the guard structure, I fell straight to my knees and cried “JESUS” as I gripped the still loaded and ready to fire again pistol with both hands! Folks, I was not cursing my Lord and Savior, I was asking fervently for his appearance and help at that very moment!  I looked up long enough to see that the Volkswagen continued on his way without stopping so I convinced myself “I missed” as what was left of my sanity slowly began to return to my shattered senses.  I mean, come on folks, had you been driving that Volkswagen and an MP just put a bullet into the trunk of your car, would you have stopped?  I somehow managed to unload my weapon while still on my knees, tore off pieces of my tee shirt and cleaned my discharged weapon to a spotless finish.  I then promptly knocked out the plate glass window that bore evidence of the perfect bullet hole thus telling the story I was running into the gate when I tripped and fell into the window. I just could not tell them I deliberately shot that damn car! So, as the song of the popular country song reminds us today, that was my story and I was sticking to it.  And as further evidence of my damaged mental status, I convinced myself I had not done something that stupid! I mean, for crying out loud!  What idiot would discharge a weapon at Gate Three?

Long story short, the gentleman driving the car did not hear the shot or feel it hit his car. I missed the license tag that I was aiming at by 2 or 3 inches and when he went to his mailbox after returning home from work that evening; he noticed the hole in his trunk, just below the left side of his license tag. He opened his trunk or actually, the rear hood to his motor and there lying in a spot on his engine was a .45cal full metal jacket bullet. Putting the broken window and the hole in his car together he called the MP Company and when I came on post the next morning, they were taking pictures of the hole in "the orange Volkswagen car!"  I went down and told one of my CID buddies the truth and he told me they were seriously looking at the MP that was assigned that Gate that day. His weapon had been fired a lot... In fact he admitted he had shot a whole box of ammo he brought out there just to play with to throw off boredom, but to the best of his knowledge, he didn’t think he had shot someone’s car.  He didn't think?  I thought to myself, "That Idiot!"  Without hesitation, I marched into the Provost Marshals office past the Command Sergeant Major and told the Full Bird Colonel I was the one that shot that car.

I actually enjoyed being a Specialist E-4 before being busted back to a PFC E-3 and after scraping wax with a razor blade from the floor of the Post Museum for six weeks I was even more surprised they allowed me to return to line duty. It would take another chapter in a Short Story to tell all the details that went into the investigation, but my 'honesty' had allot to do with the fact I was not sacrificed to the Lions, and I'm not talking about Detroit here!  Until the printing of this story, other than verbal confession(s) to selected friends, I never told the investigating officers the whole truth about deliberately drawing my pistol and purposefully aiming at that license tag before actually pulling the trigger.  That fact has been kept a state secret and never put into print until now.   I eventually made contact with the gentleman whose car I shot and introduced myself and apologized for my role in this incident.  I told him I was thankful I was not in Fort Leavenworth prison and that they only took one stripe from me.  He asked me of course what actually happened and even then I didn't have the heart to tell him the "whole" truth.  I'm sure he drew comforting consolation from my statement, "you were never in any danger," as I brushed off any further explanation of what actually transpired within the heart of Gate Three. I also know I will not forget this gentleman's name as long as I live. Mr. Easterday. A civilian employed at Fort Richardson, who actually resided in Eagle River, Alaska, came and went through Gate 3 a couple of times daily. Our visit that day in his office was most pleasant for me and I'm sure for him as upon leaving he told me, "had I known this would have caused you this much trouble, I would have never reported it!"  From the bottom of my heart, I believed him. 

Anyway, I never got that stripe back as I was Honorably Discharged a couple of months later upon completion of my tour of duty in Alaska in August of 1973. I enrolled at Northeast Louisiana University now called University of Louisiana at Monroe and graduated in May of 1976. While working on a second Bachelors degree I was employed as a security guard at the Monroe Airport and noticed a soldier in his Army Class A Uniform waiting to board a flight.  I observed the United States Army Alaska Patch on his shoulder and asked him where he was stationed. He told me he was posted at Ft Richardson, Alaska outside of Anchorage and was returning back to his duty station. I asked him what unit he was assigned to and he said he was with the 56th MP Company. What a coincidence I thought. I then informed him I was once at Ft Richardson and was also with the 56th MP Company myself... I asked him if he enjoyed working Gate Three and if all the bullet holes were still there. He started laughing and said he hated that place! I told him I did too, and as a result that boredom bred at that remote outpost it caused me to shoot an unarmed Volkswagen that passed through that gate while I was working it in 1973. That soldier turned pale right before my very eyes.  His smile slightly disappeared and he cocked his head and looked me directly in the eyes and said, “You did that? You really shot that car?” “My God man, we still talk about you up there today!”  It was obvious from the look on this man's face that he had met the legend.  I wonder if they still talk about this incident at the 56th MP Company at Fort Richardson, Alaska?  I may see if they have a facebook page and send them this short story.  After all, the statute of limitation has long expired...

And that is how you become Alaskan Folklore.

Rod Ferguson
June 7, 2012