In Berlin in the 1960s, Army personnel were basically divided into two groups: the Gators and the Spooks. Gators referred to the combat battalions stationed at McNair Barracks. They spent much of their time training for major maneuvers, which took place in the spring and fall and usually lasted for three or four days.
The gators weren’t held in very high esteem by members of the Army Security Agency, or the spooks; and our enmity toward them was returned in equal measure. We were housed some distance away in Andrews Barracks, which was probably one of the rare good ideas the Army hierarchy ever had.
The gators were highly regimented and proud of their regimentation; we were not, and proud of that fact as well. They hated ASA personnel because we could come and go as we pleased, whereas they had to wait for – and often “earn” – passes to leave their base. They hunted in packs; we were lone wolves.
Well, anyway, you get the idea. We didn’t like each other.
The following is a brief description of what gators lived for:
Arriving in small boats or amphibian vehicles, the “good guys” were received with deafening blank cartridge fire by the “enemy,” who had parts of their uniforms dyed a poison-green color and wore red flaps on their shoulders. Giant clouds of smoke from colorful smoke grenades spread out along the beaches. These grenades detonated there by the umpires, as were many simulators. When the umpires’ jeeps appeared with a white flag attached to the antenna, it usually meant that an attack was about to commence.
All “enemy” vehicles were marked with a green triangle on a white background to begin with, and then later with a black star on a red background, so they could be clearly recognized from a distance.
In the course of the day, the “enemy” was chased back through the entire Grunewald as far as the “Postfenn” and the “Teufelsberg.” Small fights broke out at every large crossroads.
When we crossed paths with the gators in the Grunewald on our way to work on Teufelsberg, the results were often humorous. Well, let McCurry explain:
“Hey Mike,” Evans said, interrupting McCurry’s reverie. “Landry told me to give you a heads up. Gators are out in the Grune on maneuvers so, in his words, ‘Drive slow and don’t cause problems.’”
“Yeah, right. That sounds like us, don’t you think?” McCurry said, grinning.
McCurry knew no treads would get on his bus. Hell, even Landry sent the message through Evans rather than come on board and give McCurry the news in person. When the bus was full, McCurry closed the doors and then turned to face his passengers, most of whom were already high or in the process of getting there.
“Listen up,” he said. “We’ll be heading through enemy gator territory when we get on the Grune road tonight. War games, so, if it becomes necessary, open the windows and return fire.”
With that, he sat down, started the engine and took off.
“You are one crazy motherfucker, McCurry, you know that,” Evans said, taking his customary seat behind the driver.
“Yeah, but ain’t we got fun.”
Soon after they started up the dirt road that cut through the Grunewald to the Hill, McCurry saw a gator sergeant with a flashlight standing in the middle of the road, waving them down. McCurry slowed the bus to a stop, waited for the gator to get around on the side and then took off. A couple of the guys put their arms out the windows and shouted, “Bang, bang, you’re dead.”
McCurry figured the gator called ahead to his squad members when he saw a sign on the side of the road that read: Closed gate. Halt.
“Are you fucking kidding me,” McCurry said to Evans as he blew through the “gate.” With that, several gators jumped out from the wooded area along the road and started firing on the bus. The soldiers were only using blanks, of course, but if McCurry were playing by the rules, he would have had to assume the bus was incapacitated by “enemy fire” and bring it to a stop. About a mile further up the road, he reached the point where he turned off and ascended to their site on the Hill.
After everyone on the bus had gotten off, entered the compound and headed for the work building, McCurry heard a screech of tires and saw this jeep coming to a stop in front of the bus. A gator Captain hopped out of the jeep and started heading for the compound gate.
In an instant, the MP guard came out of his hut with an M-14 not loaded with blanks.
“Where do you think you’re going, sir?” the guard asked.
“Get out of the way, Sergeant. I’m going after those soldiers right there,” he said, pointing at McCurry and company, all of whom had turned to watch the confrontation. “I wanna find out who the fuck the driver of that bus is and what he thought he was doing when he ran my roadblock.”
“I’m afraid I can’t allow that, sir. Now, please get back in your jeep and leave this site before I call in reinforcements.”
“What the fuck is this place?” the Captain asked.
“I’m not at liberty to answer that question. Now please, sir, get in your jeep and leave before you find yourself detained and interrogated for real.”
“Mother fuck, that guy’s got more guts than I would have given him credit for,” McCurry whispered to Evans. They both knew that even the guards had no idea what the mission was.
As the Captain jumped in his jeep shouting obscenities at the guard, McCurry raised his arm, made as if he were cocking a pistol and then fired. “Bang, you’re dead,” he said as the gator Captain took off, kicking up a hailstorm of stones in his wake.
“Well, I guess you can’t talk about how boring the mids shifts are anymore,” Evans said.