( Image: Avatar 2009)
Koombooloomba, Australia, 1994 – Throughout our patrol exercise we had endured the lethal embrace of the surrounding jungle. Trees and vines clutched at our uniforms and equipment, attempting to drag us down and fertilize their roots with our corpses. Spiders spun webs as thick as shoe laces in patterns as wide as a garage door. We gave a wide berth to a koala bear picking its teeth with a human femur.
That evening we set in to a defensive position digging into a defensive position which may have saved some of our lives. Night in the Koombooloombas was the first time I was actually unable to see my hand in front of my face. Nocturnal creatures skittered across our legs in search of easy prey. While my buddy slept in our two man fighting position, I had to fight off an entire colony of ants the size of hamsters to keep them from carrying him away.
Then it started to rain. Not the short refreshing burst of a Hawaiian spring rain, but the cataclysmic deluge of unceasing drops the size of small cars. It beat down on us like a fire hose. Our muddy fighting holes filled with water as the sides began to cave in and threatened to drown us in the ensuing quagmire. It was a long chilly night of misery as we endured the bombardment and surrendered to the idea of being wet through and through.
As the rain tapered off the next morning, we patrolled through the aftermath back toward the company CP. We had donned Gortex tops and bottoms in a vain attempt to keep ourselves dry. The local fauna laughed at us. Leaves and fronds licked at us hungrily as we slogged through the jungle.
Seeing the state we were in when we got back, our platoon commander told us to change out of our wet gear and put some dry uniforms on. We threw our water logged gear on the deck and unzipped ourselves out of our Gortex. To our Lt’s surprise nearly every single one of us was stark naked underneath. Most of us had given up wearing our drenched uniforms overnight and had stripped everything off in the rain. We’d worn nothing but rain gear on the way back knowing wearing anything else would have been futile.
Our platoon commander could only shake his head in resignation. He knew the kind of platoon he’d inherited.