Everyone has a picture of what they believe their life will be like. Some are so sure that they have this movie script complete with technicolor. But that time between teenage adolescent and adulthood is a slipper slope and some find to going difficult. to say there is often confusion in the minds of these young individuals is to issue a broad understatement. When I was in the service my speciality was communications and I had my fingers in a lot of pies. I dealt in a black market, but I took payment only in favors, never money. Money is too easy to trace and I was no fool. an article fifteen is not the same as a military court marshal conviction and ten years in Leavenworth. Besides, favors are a lot harder to trace and easier to cover. The service is a harsh teacher of life and successful attitudes. Either one performs or one doesn’t and in Vietnam that difference could prove deadly. So I traded favors. I also formed a network of favor traders. I mean, maybe someone wants a 45 caliber sidearm he normally wouldn’t be issued. Well, what do you have to trade for it? Maybe you can’t directly trade but maybe you know one or two others who can assist you in this trading business. You know, this is how economics works, the whole present value thing reduced to what do you have to trade and what is it worth? Bartter operates on the idea that everyone has something to trade and wants something in return.
Now this kid came to me because he had heard that I could arrange things. He seemed to be a good kid, unassuming and somewhat truthful. Well, you’d be surprised how truthful people can get when they want something and you press them hard enough. I deal in black market favors, you know, I don’t have time for clowns and idiots nor do I want to spend ten years in Leavenworth. And true enough, given a little time I could usually find a way to satisfy all parties. I didn’t deal with officers for the simple reason that they couldn’t be trusted. They were two faced sons of bitches and I did them no favors. An officer and a gentleman my ass. But sergeants were different. I knew how to get around inspectors when it came to imports and exports. You just had to have something to trade. Back to the kid. He was a driver in transportation, a PFC driving a two and a half ton straight truck between the big bases. He was in a jam because, as he put it, he wanted to make sure that his girl knew he wanted to marry her when he got back. You know how that goes, you’re gone and the girl thinks you have access to harems and somehow you are going to forget all about her. Hey, it’s a legitimate concern and this kid wants to make sure that she is tying the yellow ribbon around his tree and not some other guy’s. So he wants a phone call or as many as he can get, back to the states. He didn’t know it, but he had something to sell. The only guys who had direct line back to the states were the SAC people. One didn’t believe that the SAC people were on any of our bases, but they were. sure, the B-52s were out of Japan, Okinawa, and guam, but the older B-47s were SAC and the Australian Air Force. They called them Canberra bombers but these were the older Boeing made bombers. The question was, what did the SAC telephone operators want? Well, maybe a few cases of beer would do the trick, so I sent the kid to enquire since he wanted the telephone calls. Well, he came back crest fallen. They wanted a couple of quarts of Jack Daniels. Not that hard to come by if one knew where to look. What did a supply sergeant for the officers club need? He wanted to send a bunch of souvenirs back to his brother in the states. But all shipments were to be searched for drugs and AK-47, while not exactly drugs were automatic weapons. Okay, the MATS guys had the C-140s, what would they take to slip a couple of crates aboard their aircraft? They flew out of Cam Ram Bay and they wanted better quarters. Would they settle for their own clubhouse? Yes they would. Wow, this is getting very complicated. Let’s see, who would build the clubhouse? Ah. Seabees, of course. What would they want in return? a couple of cases of Jim Beam. where do we get the supplies for the building. Ah, Army Corp of Engineers. What did they want? They wanted a walk-in cooler and quite a number of cases of beer. Uh, no can do. But how about a couple of refrigerators and say twenty cases of beer? Done deal. You see, barter is about locating the various wants and needs so that they can be exchanged.
Now one of the advantages of being in communications is that quite a bit of “intelligence” moved through our hands. I knew where to locate a couple of refrigerators that had been destined for officers clubs. Those brass hats would never miss them, just send more next time. Besides, it was easy to duplicate request and get extra in country. And as I suggested to my boy in transportation, why not use that five fingered discount to supply the SAC operators? It was easy enough to sent some messages to the right people to have him assigned to pick up goods at certain warehouses. I mean, I was developing a license to steel here. Eventually the favors get done because people have the ability to fudge one way or the other. You see, it is really just a matter of keeping track of the favors owed and delivered. As for the kid who just had to talk to his girlfriend back home, that went on for several months. He kept that spark of romance alive while he served his time. In the meantime he became one of my trusted transport workers. You know, with a little bit of ingenuity one can transport a B-52 under the nose of any MP, or officer, for that matter. The MPs are a little smarter in my book. He was a hard worker and I do believe that we own him more favors than he collected. But he was a gracious individual and declined more than he needed for his own use. I mean, that is the meaning of teamwork, seeing that people feel they have a stake in the system and that the systems gives them their due. Why generals find that so hard to understand is beyond me. So this kid, name was Eddie, by the way. Kind of figures it should be Eddie, you know. He was a good guy, a stand up kind of guy. Put one of his buddies into the program. That is enough to renew your faith in human nature. Yes, many of our deals came to pass and those that didn’t, no hard feelings. But as I said, the minute you turn it into a cash operation you leave a trail and hard feelings. So when it came my turn to rotate to the states I left my operations to a couple of gentlemen who promptly went to a cash and carry system. Last I heard, they were doing ten years in Kansas. Yeah, they tried to implicate me but there was only their word. No Office of special Investigations would bother me when there was no evidence to tie me to anything. A favor is quid pro quo, but greed knows no such bounds. It’s your word of honor the way cash never can be. A man’s honor determines his character, cash has no honor or character.